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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Just A Ball Game?- Interview with Women’s Football Association’s (WFA) Patricia Gregory.

Just A Ball Game?- Interview with Women’s Football Association’s (WFA) Patricia Gregory.

Our good friend and former Women’s Football Association (WFA) Hon. Secretary and Hon. Life Vice- President Patricia Gregory took some time out to speak to us about the history of the women’s game and what things were like before Football Association’s (FA) involvement.

Often there is a misconception that until the last 3-4 decades football has only ever been a male spectator sport, with the females few and far between turning out to watch matches. However even as far back as the first ever ‘War Of The Roses’ game in 1870 a significant number of spectators cheering both Yorkshire and Lancashire sides were female. 
Then, as the popularity of the game increased, women became an integral part of football crowds.
Well before the FA were formed in 1863 and they took over the regulation of the modern day sport we know of today, it is documented that women played the game in a 6-a-side format on Bath’s bowling green as far back as October 1726. Women’s football is a popular participatory and spectator sport across the globe, but in England, football’s country of origin, women and girls have been discouraged from playing the game for many years.

This has not always been the case, female football matches are on record from the late 19th century, and, during the First World War female munitions workers and other factory workers, and even some suffragettes  famously organised many games for the purpose of raising money for war charities. These were extremely well attended to the extent that at one point the women’s game looked likely to become even more popular than the men’s game.
A couple of years back JBG? founder Lindsay England and BBC’s Shelley Alexander convinced Patricia to archive the documents and memorabilia that Patricia had hold of and others belonging to colleagues for safe keeping and future reference, Thankfully these items are now with the British Library and the hard work and dedication of these pioneers of the women’s game can now be examined in those archives.

Looking ahead to this year’s FIFA Women’s world Cup in France Patricia Gregory says, “It’s over 50 years on since I started a women’s football team, and I am amazed at the progress of this modern form of the sport which we created in the mid-1960s.”

Gregory grew up a Tottenham Hotspur supporter. Watching Spurs’ cup victory celebrations alongside her dad in the mid 1960s, Patricia  began to wonder why it was that women didn't play football, and then she decided to write a letter, which was subsequently published in her local newspaper, asking this very question.
In reply, Patricia, who didn't even play at that time, was inundated with a number of replies and letters back from young girls/women asking if they could join her team. There was no team available to play for but the idea of starting one sounded appealing and a team was formed by Gregory and named White Ribbon.
There was a stumbling block first off as the team found that because of the Football Association (FA) ban which had been imposed in 1921, they were therefore partaking in unaffiliated football matches and they were unable to hire pitches in parks or from football clubs, or use qualified FA registered referees. The ban had been stringently applied for 50 years, and the prohibition was only lifted in December 1969.This made it almost impossible to locate other girls teams so initially the White Ribbon team played young men’s teams, on their pitches, as this was the only way any females could actively enjoy the sport.

The 1966 England World Cup win had driven public enthusiasm for all forms of the game. Using this propulsion, a group of eager and enthusiastic female footballers along with the help of a number of supportive men decided to form a women’s game association.

Reminiscing those early years Gregory says, “Eventually the handful of women’s teams began to organise leagues and by 1969 the Women’s F.A. came into being and the first ever meeting took place. It initially started out as the Ladies Football Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. No less than 51 affiliated clubs signed up, 38 were represented at the inaugural meeting under the guidance of Arthur Hobbs the first Hon. Secretary. As I could type I was Hon. Asst. Secretary.”

“In the 25 years of its existence the WFA really established the sport in England, we created the National Cup competition (still existing today). We also formed the first official England team, oversaw a network of nationwide leagues, fought for the registration of women referees and coaches and much, much more.”

“The FA agreed in 1969 that we could use referees and also their affiliated grounds. However, The FA were not the only ones responsible for the alienation of the women’s game at that time. The Football League (FL, now EFL) didn't lift their objections to our using their grounds until we played an International match against The Netherlands in November 1973 (a game played at Reading FC).”
Gregory continued: "The Union Of European Association Football (UEFA) voted in late 1971 that their member associations should take control of women's football but they left the associations to choose how they would control this."
“Following on from the UEFA acceptance, on Leap Year Day 1972 The FA recognised the Women’s Football Association (WFA) as the sole governing body of women's football in England at the present time. While most of Europe integrated women's football into their associations, the FA simply recognised the WFA as the sole governing body.”
“The FA formed a Joint Consultative Committee along with the Women’s Football Association in 1972 and it met in July of that year for the first time. The very same year the Scots formed the Scottish Women’s Football Association (SWFA).”

“Arthur Hobbs, stood down at the AGM in June 1972.  He was made an Hon. Life Member of the WFA Council. Sadly Arthur died in 1975 so never lived to see how much the game progressed to what we know it is today with a fully professional elite league and players not only able to earn some sort of a wage, but also supported with a whole team of backroom staff.” 

“Another significant male ally for the women’s game was David Hunt. He started off as Treasurer of the WFA from the early 70's and became Chairman in 1977. He was in that position for several years. He hailed from Buckinghamshire and he became an Hon. Life Vice-President of the WFA when he stepped down from the Chair. He was with me on the South East of England League and in 1969 we took a league rep side to the old Czechoslovakia when the Russians were still in Prague having earlier invaded the country.”

Playing and setting up teams was certainly not easy for the WFA in the early years. Little money was available despite an increase in sponsorship, and the association relied on the strong commitment of its many volunteers, advocates and grubstakers’.
Recalling more on that first decade of existence Gregory says, “The WFA office opened at the end of 1980, the office was initially based in central London but was then relocated to Manchester in1990.
“In 1984 we saw a new structure for the WFA with affiliation to The FA on the same basis as a County. Our first Council representative was the then Chairman, Tim Stearn.”

“In 1992 the WFA had 373 clubs competing, but that topped 400 very quickly. In that same 92/93 season 151 clubs entered the WFA Cup The WFA then handed the organisation of the game over to The FA in 1993.”

“The first women's committee was formed and a women's football coordinator was established at this time. It was called the Women's Football Alliance, the first meeting took place on 18th July 1993.  

“We knew the time was right to hand it over as we could not afford to keep it going and didn't have the possibility of raising the sort of money which it needed to take the game to the next level in all respects handing over in excess of 400 clubs to The FA in 1993 was the natural progression as we knew that we could not fund the sport in the way it needed in order to flourish.”
Gregory added: “With no real financial backing it was always a struggle for the WFA, come 1993, the right thing to do was to allow The FA to take over responsibility.
"We weren't pushing for them to take us over before that because we knew that there wasn't the appetite there - they hadn't embraced the game in the way that, say, the Germans had. But in 1993 we knew we couldn't continue anymore. We'd done all the spadework and they bailed us out."
But Gregory did feel that the FA's "20 years of women's football" celebrations in 2013 ignored those who dedicated their lives to women's football in previous decades.
She wrote a letter to the then outgoing FA chairman David Bernstein, asking him to acknowledge the longer history of the game.
"It's a bit sad and disappointing that what the WFA did for so many years has just disappeared into the ether," she said. "Things evolve and it was probably the right time to stop being involved, but what I find hard to accept is that we are whitewashed out."
“In the 25 years of its existence the WFA really established the sport in England, we created the National Cup competition (still existing today), formed the first official England team, oversaw a network of nationwide leagues, fought for the registration of women referees and coaches and much, much more.”

“It ‘s a long way women’s football has come since those early pioneers first kicked a football in 1895!” says Gregory.

We chatted more with Patricia and between us followed up leads and research but often this has only resulted in more questions than answers with very little documentation on female football ever being taken let alone archived.

Here are a few more stats and notes of early pioneering days of the women’s game:
It’s possible that women were playing the game on a regular basis as early as the 1830’s, though the game would have only been 5. 6 and 7-a-side matches.
A picture has been found which depicts a female game in 1869 and if established as being correctly dated this could well be one of the first pictures of women playing football.
For some time a game played in an 1895 match at Crouch End, North London was considered to be the earliest official women’s match in the world which was billed as North v South but then information surfaced of an earlier set of fixtures claiming similar. Those being Scotland v England matches in 1881 were reported in the Glasgow Herald. There were also games in Blackburn, Liverpool and Manchester going under the title England v Scotland but there is reasonable doubt that they were as billed an actual international. Early newspaper reports were not particularly generous on these games, a Manchester Guardian reporter suggesting the following, “When the novelty has worn off, I do not think women’s football will attract the crowds”.  

A Sketch article of 6th Feb 1895 refers to the ‘British Ladies FC match’ North v South, which seems to be the North of England reference. Their team had a "custodian", a lady from Glasgow and the  result was 7-1 to the North. The match lasted 60 minutes and had a crowd of 10,000.  The article finishes "it must be clear to everybody that girls are totally unfitted for the rough work of the football field".

Information is also unclear as to the names of some of the players for instance was Nettie J. Honeyball a pseudonym as she wasn't listed on the 1891 census, and was her real name Nellie Hudson as some reports say?  Here's a puzzle. The name Nellie Honeyball in London appears on the 1911, 1901, 1891 and 1881 censuses. Family research isn’t straight forward and often the problem is names change. She seems the most likely candidate for Nettie. But, there is also a Harriet Honeyball on the 1901 census living in Camberwell, London but born in Coggleshall, Essex. Take your pick…  was she Nettie, Harriet or Nellie?

The first official international fixture (and quite possibly the first ever women’s international in the world) between Scotland v England was played at Greenock on 18th November 1972. Final score being Scotland 2  England 3. First blood going the way of the England side. The return match result was England 8 Scotland 0, a game played in June 1973 at Nuneaton FC.

The North West’s famous Dick, Kerr’s Ladies travelled across the channel to play a select French side in 1921 on a small tour across the country with games taking place in Paris, Roubaix, Le Havre and Rouen. They had formed a few years earlier after the suspension of the Football League at the end of the 1914-15 season. A number of women working in factories began to play informal games of football during their lunch breaks. At Dick, Kerr & Co, a Preston-based locomotive and tramcar manufacturer, the female workers showed a particular aptitude for the game. Watching from a window above the yard where they played an office worker Alfred Frankland spotted their talent and set about forming a team. The team was led on the pitch by founding player Grace Sibbert and under Frankland’s management, they soon drew significant crowds to see their games. They beat rival factory Arundel Coulthard 4–0 on Christmas Day 1917, with 10,000 watching at Preston North End’s Deepdale stadium.

Even after the FA ban of 1921 a number of teams kept playing for some years. In the 1950’s Manchester Corinthians was the most well known Manchester club. Fodens were around in the 50's too although they came from nearby Crewe.

Sheila Parker, who was the first England women’s captain (England 1972-1984) said,“ When the FA ban was finally lifted I was about 24 years old. I was asked to captain England in the first official Women’s FA match, against Scotland in 1972, which we won 3-2. A little known fact also accompanies the back story of this fixture in the following context in that the first Scotland v England men's match was also played in Glasgow exactly 100 years before - a pure coincidence!”

Looking at the players internationally (i.e. officially playing for England) during the seventies, eighties and early nineties and finding out ages is also still unclear, which makes records of youngest ever player and/or goal scorer hard to pinpoint. We have found documentation of a Linda J. Curl being born in Norwich in the first quarter of 1962 but can't be absolutely sure she is the England player. Curl was in the England squad from mid-1976. If the information is correct you could say Linda was certainly one of the youngest England players at that time if not thee youngest.

Likewise Jeannie Allott also played for England. Again, looking up her birth you can find a Jeannie C. Allott being born in Crewe in the first quarter of 1957. Allott was in the first England squad in 1972 and is listed as 16 years. If it's the right one she would have been under 16 in November 1972 when she scored England's third goal, possibly being one of the youngest scorers of the Lionesses team.

Other notable questions can be asked about female referees during these mid to late 20th century years. Pat Dunn, the first Chairman of the WFA, who hailed from Dorset was also one of the first ever female referees, Pat died in 1999. Joan Briggs is another name which crops up a few times was a female referee, but again little more is known about her involvement.

Those WFA papers which are now in the good hands of the British Library archive contain the minutes of the WFA’s Council, Finance & General Purposes Committee; Officers meetings and AGMs; and also the deliberations of the WFA/FA Joint Consultative Committee which eventually oversaw the winding up of the Association and the handing over to the FA of the organisation of the women’s game. There are newsletters & journals spanning 1972-1992, many of which the Library does not hold in its general collection (e.g., Women’s Football Information Sheet; Women’s Football; WFA News; Sunday Kicks) and a number of other fascinating items.

The history of the Women’s FA can be viewed on the website : 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Guest blog: Hey’s Ladies of Bradford, the forgotten football champions of Yorkshire.

In the first of our blogs looking back on the history of women's football we would like to thank our good friend Dr. David Pendleton for allowing us to use his research article featuring one of the teams who pioneered the game in West Yorkshire as a guest blog. 
Since the article was put together documentation of a further 12 games have been found.

Hey’s Ladies of Bradford,
the forgotten football champions of Yorkshire

Dr. David Pendleton

Thanks to Kathryn Hey for this image.


The exponential growth of women’s football has brought with it a welcome re-examination of the history of the women’s game. Unsurprisingly, Dick Kerr’s Ladies of Preston feature heavily in much of the coverage, but there are many other examples waiting rediscovery. One is the Hey’s Ladies, a team based at the Hey’s Brewery in Bradford. The workers, largely from the brewery’s bottling plant, rose to become a serious challenger to Dick Kerr’s and Hey’s Ladies were often promoted as the champions of Yorkshire.

While the story of the team is worthy of attention in itself, this examination of Hey’s Ladies’ football team also allows a snapshot of the tensions of gender, sport and the workplace that were partly a continuation of issues that arose during the Great War. Hey’s Ladies were a product of their age and many of their achievements, and setbacks, are transferable to other works based women’s football teams of the era. By retelling their story we are able to deepen the history of women’s football and give a timely reminder that expansion and popularity brought challenges in the 1920s that are likely to be repeated as the women’s game enjoys another era of growth. 

Munitionettes, mill girls and the Great War

Before delving into the story of the Hey’s Ladies it is worth placing their achievements into a historical framework. Pinning down the first recorded game of women’s football is a moveable feast, as the digitisation of British newspapers carries on apace, undoubtedly ‘firsts’ will be claimed and debunked with  growing regularity. Until recently, academics viewed a match at Inverness in 1888 as being the first recorded game, whatever the truth of that statement, there is no doubt that it was the First World War that transformed women’s football. With so many men fighting at the front it was the women of Britain who stepped forward to fill the gaps in the workplace. They worked in factories, drove trams, delivered the post and much else besides. It is estimated that over one million women entered the workplace during the war. The cultural impact of the empowerment of women, who did not even have the right to vote, cannot be overstated. Particularly given the context of the Suffragette campaign which had been suspended for the duration of the Great War.

The influx of women into hazardous industries, particularly munitions factories, raised official concerns. Government supervisors were sent to observe and make recommendations as regards the welfare of the newly employed women. One recommendation was that sporting activities should be encouraged. Football was taken up with such zeal that it almost became the official sport of the so-called ‘munitionettes' - the nickname deriving from the factory production of munitions (shells, bullets, bombs, etc) for the armed services. However, although the munitionettes were a highly visible element of women’s football, many other industries that employed large numbers of women also spawned football teams. As will be shown, that is supported by developments in Bradford with the formation of teams from iron works, textile mills and a brewery.

From at least 1917 women’s football teams were active in Bradford. In the September of that year a match took place at Bradford Park Avenue featuring teams from the factories of Thwaites Bros. Ltd. iron works of Thornton Road and Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Ltd. Bradford City’s 1911 FA Cup winning manager Peter O’Rourke referenced these games when he wrote in support of women’s football in the Yorkshire Weekly Record. The matches were probably played in aid of injured servicemen and the families of men killed in action. Inevitably some of the women playing would have had fathers, husbands, brothers or sons who had been killed or wounded, so participating in the games would have been deeply personal to them.

Undoubtedly, the most famous of the women’s works’ teams was the Preston based Dick Kerr’s Ladies who popularised the women’s game after the war. By the 1920s they had become the de facto England women’s national team. By contrast most of the Bradford based works’ teams appear to have disbanded after the war ended in 1918. However, one team, perhaps inspired by Dick Kerr’s, was formed in 1921 as Manningham (or Lister’s) Ladies. The bulk of the team was made up of Lister’s Mill hockey team. Both teams played in the same yellow and black colours and were part of a huge paternalistic sports section that was provided by both the mill owners and subscriptions deducted from the workers’ wages.

When it was announced that Maningham Ladies would meet the famous Dick Kerr’s Ladies at Valley Parade, there was considerable interest in their preparations. A large crowd watched their final practice match on the Manningham Mills’ Scotchman Road playing fields. Several photographs appeared in the local press of the training and the left-winger Holden was said to be ‘the Dickie Bond of the team’; Bond being Bradford City’s famous England international winger.
Miss Derry captained both Lister’s football and hockey teams. In a press interview she said she had seen Bradford City play twice, but the majority of the players had never been to a match. The inexperience showed during practice when some of the players forgot which way they were playing. However, Derry, and her team mate Bogg, had gained valuable experience when they played the previous week for a combined Yorkshire and Lancashire team that had met Dick Kerr’s at Leeds.

On 13 April 1921 Manningham Ladies played Dick Kerr’s Ladies at Valley Parade.  Bradford City’s captain George Robinson acted as referee, while other City players Frank O’Rourke and Dickie Bond ran the lines. Around ten thousand spectators saw Dick Kerr’s run out comfortable 6-0 winners, but the Manningham Ladies, despite being formed only six weeks before the game, were said to have given a good account of themselves. The £900 raised by the match was split between Bradford Hospitals and Earl Haigh’s Fund for former servicemen. After the game both teams dined at the Great Northern Victoria Hotel. Later they took in a show as guests of honour at the Alhambra Theatre.

Yorkshire’s Champions, Hey’s Ladies

                                          Thanks to Kathryn Hey for this image.

Although the Manningham Ladies appear to have been short-lived, their achievements appear to have been the inspiration behind the formation in April 1921 of another Bradford based team, Hey’s Ladies, made up of workers from Hey’s Brewery of Lumb Lane, Manningham. The two teams met one another during a five-a-side ‘sport carnival’ at Bradford Park Avenue on 6 August 1921. Around 8,000 spectators watched a men’s competition featuring sides from Barnsley, Bradford City, Bradford Park Avenue, Halifax Town, Harrogate, Huddersfield Town, Hull City and Leeds United. The ladies match saw Hey’s defeat Lister’s Ladies 2-0. That game in some ways represented a change in women’s football in Bradford, it could be argued that Lister’s Ladies epitomised the charitable, one-off, nature of some women’s football in the wake of the Great War, whereas Hey’s Ladies signalled something more permanent and perhaps a shift in societal attitudes?

The fact that it was another Manningham team is suggestive that there may have been an element of support, or inspiration from, Bradford City AFC whose Valley Parade ground was within a mile of Manningham Mills and only a few minutes walk from Hey’s Brewery. The links between the Hey family and Bradford City AFC are particularly compelling. Herbert Hey, a worsted manufacturer, but directly related to the brewers, had been a director of Bradford City AFC between 1910 and 1913 and was vice-president of the club between 1921 and 1922. Arthur Hey, the general manager of the brewery, was also a director at Valley Parade between 1927 and 1929 and again between 1933 and 1947. Judging by newspaper reports it appears that it was Arthur Hey who was the driving force behind Hey’s Ladies. The majority of women’s teams were headed by a male administrator. The lack of female leadership off the field probably reflects the nature of women’s work and commitments within the family home. In comparison to their male counterparts leisure time would have been far more constrained. However, in the absence of company records, it is impossible to establish whether Hey’s Ladies was formed due to Arthur Hey’s close associations with the game of football, or whether it was the women themselves who initiated the team. The latter is a possibility, as ‘there is much to support the view that playing football was an activity initiated by women’. Another factor that should be borne in mind is that Hey’s Brewery used football imagery in their advertising, so their support of Hey’s Ladies could have been a recognition of the popularity, and advertising opportunities, offered by women’s football in the early 1920s. What is certain is that women’s football fell on fertile grounds at Hey’s Brewery and it is without doubt that Hey’s Ladies received enthusiastic backing from the company.

The close links between Hey’s Brewery and Bradford City AFC almost certainly led to Hey’s Ladies making their public bow at Valley Parade in a fund raising match in aid of the ‘New Motor Lifeboat Fund’. It was the beginning of a long association between the city of Bradford and the RNLI as the success of the fund led to a lifeboat being named ‘City of Bradford’ which was based at Spurn Head at the mouth of the River Humber. The fund raising match enjoyed civic patronage as the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Lieut-Col. Anthony Gadie, was credited with organising the event. It took place on 19 October 1921. Inevitably, the famous Dick Kerr’s Ladies provided the opposition. Acting as linesmen were Bradford City’s Scottish international keeper Jock Ewart and centre forward Frank O’Rourke. Hey’s Ladies lost 4-1, with E. Jackson scoring the consolation goal. The attendance of 4,070 raised £184 for the New Lifeboat Fund.

The visits of Dick Kerr’s to Bradford was just a small part of the Preston based team’s prodigious charitable and fund raising work. However, when women footballers played several matches to aid striking miners in Lancashire, it arguably gave the Football Association the excuse they were looking for in order to stifle the popularity of teams such as Dick Kerr’s. In December 1921 the FA banned women from playing on Football League grounds. Although the intricacies of the ban will not be discussed in this article, it is worth reproducing the FA statement in order to illustrate the pressures being faced by the women’s game:

Complaints having been made as to football being played by women, the council feel impelled to express their strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged. Complaints have also been made as to the conditions under which some of these matches have been arranged and played, and the appropriation of receipts to other than charitable objects. The council are further of the opinion that an excessive proportion of the receipts are absorbed in expenses and an inadequate percentage devoted to charitable objects. For these reasons the council request clubs belonging to the association to refuse the use of their grounds for such matches.

Arthur Hey informed the Yorkshire Evening Post that, despite the FA ban, Hey’s Ladies ‘would continue so long as the girls wanted to play’. He defended women’s football saying that ‘the girls enjoy playing football, they worked all the better for it and were much better in health’. Hey thought that it ‘was as if the FA were jealous of the girls encroaching on their sacred preserves’. He viewed the governing body’s actions as ‘interference practically amounting to impertinence’ and challenged the FA to divulge any evidence of alleged abuse of expenses. He stated that Hey’s Ladies only charged expenses if they undertook an ‘exceptionally long journey’. However, Hey did reveal that the players were paid ‘broken time’ if they suffered a loss in wages. The only fixed expense was insurance against injuries. This was in line with similar recompenses paid by Dick Kerr’s and may have been a standard model across the women’s game. He said that the ladies team had cost the brewery £60 in subsidy since their formation eight months earlier.

Perhaps partly in defiance of the ban, Hey’s met the previously unbeaten Doncaster Ladies on Boxing Day 1921 in a match that was advertised as ‘the championship of Yorkshire’. Hey’s won by five clear goals and in subsequent publicity they were referred to as the ‘Yorkshire champions’. Despite the hyperbole, the charity work continued and on 7 January 1922 Hey’s Ladies met Dick Kerr’s to play a match in aid of the Wakefield Workpeople’s Hospital Fund. Due to the Football Association ban they were forced to play at Belle Vue, home of Wakefield Trinity Rugby League Club. The use of a Rugby League ground is illustrative of the creative thinking women’s football was forced to adopt in order to find venues on which to play and circumvent the FA ban. Around 5,000 spectators saw, what was termed, a thrilling 1-1 draw. Florrie Redford opened the scoring for Dick Kerr’s after only ten minutes with a strong cross shot. Mabel Benson in the Hey’s net, got a hand on the ball, but could not prevent the goal. Despite losing ‘Tiny’ Emmerson with a twisted knee after fifty-five minutes, Hey’s pressed hard for an equaliser. It came five minutes from time when the little centre forward, E. Jackson, got through to score with a brilliant shot. Despite heavy pressure Dick Kerr’s hung on to preserve their unbeaten record. A rematch was arranged to take place at Greenfield Stadium, Bradford. The ground was a well-known athletics ground and had been the home of Bradford Northern Rugby League Club for one season in 1907/08. The match was to be played in aid of Manningham Soldiers Fund. Unfortunately, heavy snow caused its postponement, but the match eventually went ahead on 18 February 1922. Bradford East MP Captain Loseby kicked off the game. The match was a high-scoring 4-4 draw. 

Perhaps partly in recognition of the prowess of Hey’s Ladies, Bradford was becoming something of a centre for women’s football. The inaugural meeting of the English Ladies FA had been held in the city in 1921 and Bradford had been selected to host the 1922 English Ladies FA Challenge Cup Final. However, a suitable ground could not be found and the final had to be relocated. The difficulty in finding grounds in the wake of the FA ban was illustrated when in March 1922 Bradford Rugby Union Football Club applied to the Yorkshire Rugby Union to host a game between Hey's Ladies and a French touring side. James Miller of Leeds opposed the application, saying that football was not suitable for women, and when they tried to play it they made a ridiculous exhibition of themselves. He was supported by the Rev. Huggard of Barnsley who said that ‘they respected, and loved their women, and therefore ought not to encourage them to do anything derogatory to their position, or anything that would be unseemly’. The application was refused.

The match was moved to what was rapidly becoming Hey’s home ground, Greenfield at Dudley Hill. The French team, Olympique de Paris, contained five athletic champions in their ranks. Their arrival in Bradford caused great interest and they were photographed on the steps of their base, the Rawson Hotel (owned by the Hey’s Brewery), before the match. The game was played in aid of Rheims Cathedral Restoration Fund and the Bradford Hospital Fund. The cathedral had been severely damaged by German shelling during the Great War. It was portrayed as a war crime and a British Empire Fund for Restoration of Rheims Cathedral was launched. It eventually raised 443,000 francs and, in an act of solidarity and gratitude, a plaque was laid in the cathedral commemorating British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in France. On 28 March 1922 an estimated 3,000 spectators saw Hey’s defeat their French opponents 2-0. Among the match reports is a line that suggests that Hey’s may have been poaching players from other Yorkshire clubs as it was said that Lucy Bromage had ‘again’ turned out for Hey’s. Bromage usually played for Doncaster Ladies and was the daughter of the former Derby County and Leeds City goalkeeper Harry Bromage.

What appears to have been Hey’s Ladies final flourish came in the six team Whitehead Lifeboat Shield competition. Played during May 1922 it featured: Doncaster Ladies, Hey's Ladies, Huddersfield Alexandra, Huddersfield Atalanta, Huddersfield Ladies and Keighley. Hey’s defeated Huddersfield Alexandria 4-1 and Huddersfield Atalanta 4-0 en route to the final. Around 5,000 spectators witnessed the final at Greenfield when Hey’s defeated Doncaster Ladies 4-0. The Lord Mayor of Bradford Thomas Blythe presented the shield to Mabel Benson, the victorious Hey’s captain. After winning the shield Hey’s Ladies appear to have played only a handful of matches before switching to cricket in 1925. Hey’s met their old adversaries Dick Kerr’s at Burnley and Castleford in 1923, 1924 and 1925. The seemingly abrupt ending also occurred to the women’s game in the Leigh and Wigan areas.

Hey’s Ladies first reported cricket match was played against a team from the Bradford Dyer’s Association. Hey’s Ladies scored 105 for the loss of four wickets.  The Dyers’ Association side was all out for nine.  ‘Tiny’ Emmerson (a winger from the football team), took seven wickets for seven runs.  Margaret Whelan (scorer of several goals for Hey’s Ladies) captured three wickets for two runs.  The team played in the Bradford Ladies’ Evening Cricket League. In 1931 they won all four cups offered in Bradford.

In the wake of the FA ban the women’s game has been described as being placed in a state of ‘suspended animation’, it is likely that the fate of Hey’s Ladies is representative of that process Until the revival of women’s football in the 1980s, the game in Bradford was reduced to one off events such as the floodlit 1953 match between Preston Ladies and Manchester at Odsal Stadium. On a purely local level, occasional charity games between women’s teams continued to take place. One example being the 1956 game between the Queen Tigers, from the Queen public house on Thornton Road, and a team from Fairweather Green Working Men’s Club. The game raised £12 10s for Fairweather Green WMC annual children’s treat. According to newspaper reports the match was a lively affair with much screaming and hair pulling. At one point both goalkeepers were reportedly embroiled in a fight for the ball. 


Why did women’s football become a popular spectator sport and why was it confined to a relatively brief period. The linkage with the Great War and the fact that the game had a social purpose that enabled women’s football to side step the constraints imposed by gender politics and stereotypes. In particular, the tapping into the narrative of the ‘plucky heroine’ that emerged during the Great War as women were ‘thrown into traditional male roles at home, in the work place and on the sports field’, meant that games during this era avoided condescending and hostile perceptions that have dogged women’s football. It has been argued that spectators were more receptive because the matches were charitable events that raised money for the families of soldiers killed or wounded at the front.

Hey’s prowess on the field of play, the meeting of the English Ladies FA at Bradford in 1921 and the abortive attempt to host the 1922 English Ladies FA Challenge Cup Final, illustrate that Bradford was one of the key locations during the first phase of women’s football during, and shortly after, the Great War. Hey’s Ladies adoption of cricket in 1925 may reflect the pressures brought to bear on the management of Hey’s Brewery, who were also involved at board level with Bradford City AFC during the same period, by the FA ban. However, the fact that the social context of women’s football’s charitable role and workplace emancipation had lost some of its focus by the early 1920s could also have been a factor.

It could be argued that the subsequent chaotic and light hearted matches, as represented by the 1956 game at Fairweather Green, represented the ultimate victory of those who sought to crush women’s football in the wake of the Great War. The high minded ideals of charity, emancipation and solidarity had fallen a long way. The fact that the FA’s ban on women’s football was not lifted until 1971 reflects poorly on, and asks uncomfortable questions of, the so-called people’s game.  Even after the ban was lifted it was another decade before women’s football began a long overdue rehabilitation. However, as the country commemorates the centenary of the Great War, perhaps at long last the munitionettes, the mill girls and Yorkshire’s champions, Hey’s Brewery Ladies, can begin to take their rightful place in the sporting and social history of Bradford and beyond.
Since putting this article together evidence of a further 12 games have been found.