Sue Lopez discusses the FA ban on women in football



Sue Lopez talks about her fight to be allowed to play women’s football and the differences between the UK and abroad.

Women in the FA

It was only in 1969 that the Football Association (FA) lifted the ban on women’s teams becoming members of the FA. This meant that they were allowed access to affiliated pitches and referees. But women were still in the FA as amateur, i.e. unpaid, players. Men’s membership was at various levels: professional, semi-professional and amateur. Lopez clearly felt that it was not appropriate for men to have the option to play football at a high level while women did not. She elaborates the story of how clerks, typists and teleprinter operators from Southampton eventually rediscovered ‘serious’ football for women in the late 1960s in her book Women on the Ball: A Guide to Women's Football (London: Scarlet Press, 1997).

The story today

Currently the FA has no women on its board, and just one woman, Heather Rabbatts, as a non-executive director. The number of women in football, and in sport generally, is growing. Organisations such as Women in Football and Kick It Out are actively working to increase participation, as well as eliminating racism in the sport. Over 1.3 million women and girls currently take part in football across the UK, and the number of women coaches and referees is rising annually.

Do you think women in sport have a role to play in challenging gender stereotypes?

Do you watch football or any other sport on TV, or live? Are you interested in watching male players or female players? Why?

Do you think women’s football might one day be as popular as men’s? What would have to take place for this to happen?

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Football cartoon © Jacky Fleming



The FA said that they didn’t think football was an appropriate game for women, and so women could not be affiliated to play football properly. In any country you have to affiliate to the governing body, and they wouldn't let any woman affiliate to the governing body, which meant you couldn’t have registered referees, you couldn’t have pitches upon which affiliated teams played and, basically, you're out there on your own playing friendly games on pretty awful pitches with unregistered referees and not part of the system. So you're not going to learn how to coach, you're not going to get access to all the things that people affiliate to an association for. Which meant we went through this period from, well, it was this lady Jean Seymour, who came down from Manchester Corinthians, we were going to play a game, 11th of December 1966, against Portsmouth, and she said ‘Where are you playing it’? And we said ‘Oh on Sholing’s ground’. She said ‘Sholing are affiliated’, and we didn’t know what the heck she was on about. So again, to cut a long story short, we had to then find another pitch. And then subsequently, all these little teams we’d played for; Cunard, Royal Exchange, Post Office, the better players we decided then to become one club, which was Southampton. The other ground we got was the, the hospital at Netley, so the Royal Victoria Hospital, military hospital let us use that pitch for a couple of times. And, from there on it was a real problem to find pitches. And the final straw came when Ted Bates, the lovely Southampton men’s manager, he allowed us to, we thought, do a pre-match. So before a Southampton men’s match we could go out there - again it’s a good promotion - play a bit of football, maybe shoot some penalties, and then we were told we’re not allowed to do that. And the reason given by the Football League was they're not allowed to do that on a Sunday. Well in fact this was a Saturday. But basically, again we were given the red card, if you like, and told. Then the other person who suffered through all this was a guy called Dave Case who subsequently managed the Cunard team, and they were very good. But he played for Sholing, and he was told that he had to give up managing Cunard, because, because, because.

Because what?

Because he's associated with a men’s football team and he couldn’t then manage a girls’ team.

Sue Lopez discusses the FA ban on women in football
17 May 2012
Sound recording
Sue Lopez
Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project
© British Library
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British Library

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