This year women’s football is marking the 100 year anniversary of women being banned from playing the beautiful game. Lincoln City used Saturday's fixture to educate many people who have no idea about the ban and how it still impacts the women’s game today.
To understand the reason for the ban we must travel back to World War One, when women’s football was at its peak. During the war, women kept the home fires burning, taking the places of many men, working in factories across the country helping to produce things like munitions to help with the war effort.
To keep up morale women started to play football on their breaks. The government and factory owners encouraged this, and football went from being ‘unsuitable for women’, to being ‘important for their health and wellbeing’.
The game became more formalised, with teams playing charity matches in support of the war effort.
The women became national celebrities, far surpassing the men’s game, the pinnacle of which was in 1920, when on a Boxing Day match the famous Dick, Kerr Ladies attracted a crowd of 53,000 fans with a further 14,000 trying to get in.
The war had long since ended and women were called to “take their right and proper place” in society. The game went from being important for a women’s health and wellbeing to a “most unsuitable game, too much for a women’s physical frame”.
On 5 December 1921 the FA banned women’s football, calling on grounds to refuse entry to women. This was not revoked until 50 years later in 1971, but the damage had already been done. To date, the biggest crowd attending an England Women’s National Team fixture is 40,181 - still nowhere near the level of support received in the 1920s. Just imagine how big the women’s game could be if it had been allowed to continue to thrive 100 years ago.
Women’s footballers are still rarely seen in the media, which means girls today have no role models to aspire to. With the lack of opportunities and pathways for girls, they are steered away from a career in sport, in favour of training for a ‘proper job,’ whereas boys are encouraged to dream.
Lincoln City have fought to change that over the past few years, with the opening of their girls and women’s pathways, giving Lincolnshire girls a genuine pathway into the sport. With the inclusion of women’s football stars like Alex Scott taking their rightful place in football punditry, the world is starting to change.
But we still have a long way to go. So as we mark this anniversary we make a plea to you, the Lincoln City Football Fans. Help to bring women’s football back to the forefront, go to see a Lincoln City Women’s game, teach our girls to dream again and support our Women’s National Team.