Dick, Kerr ladies and the FA ban that killed the women’s game
Today we’re looking into the fascinating story of Dick, Kerr ladies, a team so good they threatened to reshape the very landscape of football itself, until the FA stepped in.
Born out of The Dick, Kerr factory in Preston, Lancashire, the side were made up of women who had joined the company in 1914 to help produce munitions for the first world war.
The story goes that after persistently being mocked by the women of the factory for their terrible results, the men’s team effectively snapped and challenged the women to a game - the result is unknown but Dick, Kerr ladies had been born.
Their ascent to the top was so rapid that within three years of their first competitive fixture the side would effectively become England’s women’s national side, embarking on a highly publicised and successful tour of France.
The very first official fixture the side played drew an astonishing 10,000 people to Preston’s Deepdale stadium on Christmas Day 1917, with all money going to injured soldiers. This would become a recurring theme for the side - as word spread of this all conquering women’s team, many saw that the potential to raise money for the war and recovery effort was huge.
They would take in the modern equivalent of over £50k that day at Deepdale and they were just getting started.
The period of 1920-1921 would undoubtedly be the sides' golden age. Their French tour catapulted them to new heights and on Boxing Day of 1920 an astonishing 53,000 people crammed into Everton’s Goodison Park to watch the side take on St Helens ladies. A 4-0 win provided plenty of entertainment while the total sum raised for charity topped the £150k in today’s money.
And then, on the 5th December 1921, the FA instructed all its clubs to refuse permission for women to play on their grounds, effectively killing the women’s game in the UK before it had truly even found its feet.
It took an astonishing 98 years for the attendance record they set that day at Goodison to be broken and it’s impossible to imagine how different things could have been for women’s football if not for the ban near 100 years ago. One things for certain though, when everyone has a chance to play and get involved, everyone wins.
Words by Andy Gallagher