Three seasons ago I used to take the York Coastliner bus and alight in the High Street in Tadcaster on the River Ouse, walk past the John Smith brewery to the little stadium to watch Leeds United Ladies play such teams as Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Blackburn Rovers, Doncaster Rovers Belles and others.
There were only a few dozen fans present, mostly family and friends and one of the brightest young prospects was defender Steph Houghton from County Durham. I used to chat with her proud grandmother over a cup of tea at half-time in the pavilion. She drove down the A1 with the family for every match. Her granddaughter now plays for Chelsea in the new F.A. Women's Premier League.
This morning Steph is a national hero and world famous. Last night in front of a record final of 70,000 plus at Wembley Stadium she scored the only goal of the match in the 2nd minute over a very good Brazil team 1-0. It was a night of Hope(Powell) and Glory against Marta and the Samba Girls. What a match and a great advertisement for the women's game. She was on the front and back page of all the daily newspapers last Thursday morning after opening the 2012 Olympics at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff beating New Zealand 1-0, and then winning the second match over Cameroon 3-0. Our Steph has scored in EVERY MATCH.
The previous British record crowd for women's football was Dick, Kerr's Ladies in 1920 at Goodison Park, Everton, 53,000 v St. Helen's Ladies. They were watched in Europe, USA, and Canada, after which the Football Association in all their wisdom, banned women from playing in ANY stadium under their control for the forseeable future. In the 1970's I visited the English Women's FA in a tiny office over a warehouse in West London with very little money and one employee. The name came from the munitions factory in Preston owned by two Scots, W B Dick and John Kerr, where most of the girls worked. Lilly Parr and other players are recognised at www.nationalfootballmuseum.com
The British record crowd for a women's international here was the opening game of the UEFA Women's Championships at City of Manchester Stadium June 5th 2005, 29,092 for England 3 v Finland 2. With the recent launch of the FA Womens Premier League, this summer month league has good financial support with players given £16,000 a season stipends. Most also work and do coaching for their clubs. www.thefa.com
The ban was lifted only after 50 years in 1971, and money and support poured in with terrific results on the field and with huge participation. Read Gail Newman ' In a League of their Own', Barbara Jacobs 2004 'Dick, Kerr's Ladies' and Pete Davies, 1997 'I Lost my Heart to the Belles' Also www.dickkerrladies.com and www.ronsblog.com 9/14/2006: Dick Kerr's Ladies and The Donny Belles.
Nowadays the Football Association treat women's and girls teams well at the national level with the first squad travelling business class on long journeys. Contrast this to World Champions Japan, who flew from Tokyo to London for the Olympics in the back of the plane, while their men's team, who are professionals, went business class. FIFA football Execs came First Class.
Hands up if you know who ALBERT IS ?? Well, last year ADIDAS held a competition to name the football to be used in the men's and women's 2012 Olympic Football Tournaments.it has unique triangular panels with the pink and light blue London 2012 logo. The winning name was ALBERT, a Cockney rhyme slang sort of name after The Albert Hall, -BALL... get it? Over 12,000 unique names were selected and the winner was submitted by Rob Ashcroft. www.footballculture.com
The quarter final match ups on Friday feature Team GB v Canada in Coventry; USA v New Zealand at St. James Park, Newcastle; France v Sweden at Hampden Park, Glasgow: and Brazil v Japan at Millenium Stadium, Cardiff.