Retrospect: How women’s football has grown

2nd from left, Lily Parr (1905 - 1978) team captain and Forward for the Preston Ladies Football Club explains tactics on a table top football pitch to her team players for an upcoming match ball during a training session on 27th May 1939 at the playing fields in Preston, Lancashire, England. Lily Parr also played for Dick, Kerr Ladies football team, one of England's earliest professional women's association football teams and in 2002 Lily Parr was the only woman to be made an Inaugural Inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images).

In 1921, the FA passed a resolution to prohibit women’s football, resulting in a ban that hindered the game’s growth for 50 years.

At the time of the ban, the sport was flourishing — spearheaded by the iconic Dick, Kerr Ladies, who notably attracted crowds of thousands. Their biggest turnout pulled in a 53,000-strong sea of supporters to Goodison Park in 1920, a record attendance that sat for almost 100 years.

In 2019, the legendary record was smashed. Barcelona and Atlético Madrid rewrote history as they welcomed 60,739 fans to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.

It’s taken decades, but women’s football has been reborn from the ashes, and it’s taking the world by storm.

Despite the 50-year setback, members of the women’s football community worked tirelessly and unrecognised to rebuild the game’s status. From recycled footballs and hand-me-down kits to signing blockbuster broadcast deals — women’s football has been propelled back into the spotlight thanks to the devotion of those who love the sport.

In 2021 alone, we saw records broken and history made. Barcelona became the first-ever Spanish side to win the Champions League. The Canadian national team won their first-ever Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games. The Women’s Super League also signed a landmark deal with Sky and the BBC to broadcast live coverage of its fixtures.

Had the heartbroken players of Dick, Kerr Ladies been told women would go on to sell out stadiums and air on the biggest channels in the UK, they would have never believed it.

There’s still a way to go, but the progress of women’s football so far is staggering. It’s all over social media, on the TV, and in shop windows. And it echoes around the grounds when every devoted supporter sings their hearts out for their team. It’s becoming impossible to ignore women’s football.

MORE from Her Football Hub: