Eagles soaring for girl's football, Imogen Evans, Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School

Women's football has gone through bans, mobbing and a fight against discrimination, now it is thriving more than ever. <i>(Image: Peter Glaser, Unsplash)</i>
Women's football has gone through bans, mobbing and a fight against discrimination, now it is thriving more than ever. (Image: Peter Glaser, Unsplash)

After the 31st July 2022, interest in football for women and girls has shot up. The victory of the Lionesses at Wembley Stadium led to a 17% increase in female affiliated players across all levels, according to the FA, showing how the victory has allowed young girls to feel confident in joining a largely male-dominated sport. As we take a look back to the very origins of this sport, through the fifty year ban and the opposition from press and public, we can see just how important this victory is and as well as the clubs, like the Canterbury Eagles, increasing their teams to accommodate for girls.

Initially met with opposition from press and public, as well as occasional mobs onto pitches, one of the first recorded women’s football teams, the British Ladies Football Club, was founded in 1895. During the First World War, women’s football flourished with around 150 women’s teams founded, attracting huge crowds of spectators. A Boxing Day match in 1920, between Dick Kerr’s Ladies Football Club and a Parisian team, drew around 53 000 spectators into the stadium, another thousand turned away at the gate.

However, potentially due to the success of the women’s game threatening that of the men’s, on 5 December 1921, the FA banned all women’s clubs from using their facilities, claiming that football was “quite unsuitable for females and should therefore not be encouraged”. The ban would remain for another fifty years, until 1971. In the wake of a game, involving an independent British-representing team, in an unofficial tournament held by Mexico, which drew an attendance of 80 000, the FA decided to lift the ban. Despite this, it was not until 1991 when the first women’s world cup was held in China. Women’s football has continued to grow ever since.

In Kent there are many football clubs expanding their teams for women, especially with the increase in interest after the victory of England in the 2022 EUROS. One team that has had a particular focus on girls’ football is the Canterbury Eagles, Canterbury’s longest established football club for young people. Founded in 1979, the club has created an environment that aims to be supporting and fun, focusing on players’ wellbeing and social development as well as their football skills. Looking to the future with the plans to build a full-sized floodlit 3G pitch at Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School, and with four teams specifically for girls, the club has been providing a supportive and encouraging environment to help push the growth of girls’ football.

Following a history of bans, mobbing and filled stadiums, the win by the Lionesses at the EUROs 2022 has encouraged more young girls to get involved in the game. With football clubs, such as the Canterbury Eagles, as well as many more around the country, providing a supportive environment for girls and pushing for involvement of girls in a mainly male-dominated game, the future of Women’s football looks to be a bright one.