UNITED IN SPORT: THE FOOTBALL EDITION
In the lead up to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament, we look at the journey of women in football, and how team spirit is the number one factor uniting us all in sport.
FORTITUDE IN MOTION
In 1984, a woman named Nettie Honeyball founded the British Ladies FC. Captaining the side, Honeyball built a dedicated squad of almost 30 players. Public reaction to a female football team was mixed, but Honeyball and her team persisted.
On March 23, 1895, Honeyball coordinated an all female inter-squad match; North London versus the South. Tickets to the game were opened to the public, and 10,000 people gathered in the stands - with many more being turned away. North beat South 7-1. The team played a number of further exhibition matches, eventually disbanding due to lack of funding. Nevertheless, interest in women’s football faltered little in the coming years.
On Boxing Day 1920, a women’s football game held at the grounds today known as Everton Football Club attracted more than 53,000 spectators, with 10,000 more fans turned away. Despite the game’s popularity, public scrutiny reigned. In 1921, just one year later, the Football Association of England banned women from playing, and from having access to club facilities. The ban stood in place for 50 years, before its lift in 1971.
Today, FIFA estimates the number of women and girls playing football worldwide stands at 29 million, with the aim to facilitate an increase to 60 million by 2026.
As well as the physical and emotional benefits playing and supporting football can add to our lives, its importance around women supporting women, and team spirit, is what stands at the forefront of its universal appeal.
United in Sport: The Tennis Edition - read our interview with tennis pro and P.E Nation ambassador Ana Bogdan here.