The sexist slant of years gone by - we look back at women's football's un-PC past

The sexist slant of years gone by - we look back at women's football's un-PC past

By Bob Westerdale | 29/05/2022

The sexist slant of years gone by - we look back at women's football's un-PC past


With the UEFA European Women’s Championship 2022 on the horizon and Rotherham playing its part, BOB WESTERDALE looks at the history of women’s football and the changing views towards it.

EVEN the most laddish and politically incorrect bloke wouldn’t expect to get away with this, these days.

However some men might frame women’s football in comparison to the men’s game, most would not deploy such an obviously sexist slant.

It perhaps shows how far acceptance of the female game has come when you look at this caricature published in a once-respected journal.

And the fact it is to be exhibited as a museum piece illustrates how life has changed since women pathfinders took to the pitch.

Clifton Park Museum will have the parody piece and other head-turning presentations on display from June 18 to October 9 as they doff their football cap to the UEFA European Women’s Championship 2022.

Rotherham United’s New York ground is to host three group stage games and a quarter final of the tournament in July.

Ahead of the games and their own public display, the museum has given a sneak peek of the caricature published in 1894 by The Sketch, a London-based magazine that ran from 1893 to 1959.

At the time, its intention might have been lighthearted.

But the prejudice against the notion of the “British Ladies Football Team” is hard to look past.

Dominated by a fashion pose from one of the soccer stars of the day, the depiction shows the ladies arriving at the ground in full-length skirts, one of them, curiously, with a football already at her feet.

Another image represents women players surrounding and haranguing a besieged referee.

“Oh bother the rules” is a caption on two women trying rugby-style tackles on another — as if they had no idea what the rules are of the beautiful game.

Half time sees a lady gently applying a fan to her flushed face while others are busy arranging their hair before the restart.

Then the jewel in the misogynistic crown: a group of men stood behind the goal checking out the “good looking goalkeeper”.

After more than 50 seasons with the Millers, Val Hoyle has seen and heard it all before, when it comes to chauvinism.

The secretary of Rotherham United Women — she founded the team (then called Kilnhurst Shooting Stars) in 1969 — says prejudice still exists.

Happily, it is on the wain, though.

“There is still an element of people who would still have views like that, not many in my experience, I think the media coverage of women’s football has changed a lot of views on whether we can play football or not,” she says.

“When you hear (negative) things said, I like to think we are better than that and make that obvious in the way we respond to it.

“There can be prejudice on the internet, some females at England level have had some trolling.

“If a group of women is socialising and fellas have had a bit too much to drink sometimes they make remarks, but you might get that if you were on a hen party, people like to show off. If it is meant in a joking way I might say: ‘Come and watch us and make your mind up — if you don’t know don’t comment on it!’

“Mostly, I ignore them, it’s just not worth your breath to argue with them.”

Val (64) started off at the age of 11 as a goalie, but as a left-footer played wing, midfield, and then centre half.

The female game has gone a long way since then and the Euros will help its profile more, she says.

But the Rotherham games need to be marketed to all sections of the public.

“Generally, Rotherham needs to get its finger out. I have seen one poster in Canklow,” says Val.

“Apart from what’s happening at New York and the museum, you’d think they’d be more banging away about it really.”

As well as the British Ladies, the Museum exhibition will include references to:

- The first recorded match of its kind in Rotherham, Rawmarsh Ladies v Wath Gentlemen, a charity contest to help women and children affected by coal shortages.

- A series of matches played by women munitions workers from Rotherham Shell Factory and the National Projectile Factory at Templeborough during the First World War (pictured, bottom left).

- The fact women were banned from playing on pitches affiliated with the FA in 1921.

A museum spokesman said: “This exhibition charts the powerful and personal story of women’s football across Rotherham.

“You can discover where it all began, from the grassroots of Rotherham playing fields to the international pitches of European Championships.

“You’ll hear the voices of our local lionesses recounting their achievements as well as women who have strived to give the game the centre stage it deserves.

“Come along and be inspired as we celebrate Rotherham’s status as a host city of the Championship.”

The museum added: “If you have stories or photographs please do share with us too.

“We are particularly interested to find out more about women who played football during the FA ban from 1921 to 1971.”

The New York stadium games are: Sunday, July 10, France vs Italy; Thursday, July 14, France vs Belgium; Monday, July 18, Iceland vs France; Friday, July 22, Quarter-final 4, Winners Group D v Runners-up Group C.

All kick offs are 8pm.



Sign up to our weekly newsletter delivered straight to your inbox

Spotted something we should know about?

Call our Newsdesk on 01709 803562
Or email
Message us on Facebook