Following a major Summer season for women’s football, Neil Lancaster, Chairman of Merseyrail Ladies FC, has penned us a guest blog on the rise of the sport.

He takes a look back at the sport’s potted history and shares his hopes for the future.

 Merseyrail Ladies FC 

This summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup has well and truly shined a spotlight on women’s football, with the sport receiving masses of media attention for what seems like the first time.

But did you know… Women’s football matches once pulled bigger crowds than most men’s games – sometimes more than 50,000!

In the 1920s the sport flourished with around 150 women’s teams in England. There was a huge growth in women’s football during the First World War when women were called upon to do factory jobs left by the men who had gone to fight.
And when (Dick Kerr’s) Preston Ladies played St Helen’s Ladies on Boxing Day 1920 they pulled in a crowd of 53,000 at Everton’s Goodison Park, with thousands more fans locked outside.
Everton men’s attendance today has a capacity of 39,572.
In December 1921 the women’s game was effectively banned, with the FA at the time saying the game of football is “quite unsuitable for females”. This ruling stood until 1971.
Over the last decade, women’s football has been the UK’s biggest growth sport in the UK.

In June 2019, England’s 3-0 win over Norway in the World Cup quarter-final set a new peak TV viewing record for women’s football of 7.6million.

Stephanie Frappart became the first female referee to officiate a major men’s European match when she took charge of the UEFA Super Cup. Along with her all-female team of assistant referees, Manuela Nicolosi of Italy and Michelle O’Neill from the Republic of Ireland.

However, as in the US, our focus here in the UK at grass roots level is on getting – and keeping – girls and women on the pitch.

Here in Liverpool, Merseyrail Ladies FC are one of the clubs striving to make a mark at a local level.

Having previously played under the banner of Bootle Men’s FC, they have now moved to their own ground at Admiral Park in Liverpool 8 and there’s no affiliation to a men’s team – a decision that sees this team of women striving their own path. 

Maybe, history could repeat itself for women’s football?

Neil Lancaster Chairman of Merseyrail Ladies FC

You can find Merseyrail Ladies FC on Twitter and Facebook.