Sheffield Women’s football

Firth Vickers Ladies - 1917
Firth Vickers Ladies – 1917

Way back in 1881, 1,000 fans paid to watch a women’s match in Sheffield, between teams comprising English and Scottish players. The game was played near Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground. 14 years later, 3,000 spectators gathered near the city’s other professional club ground, Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane, to watch the British Ladies Football Club in action. 

Both matches were – and are – a reflection of the steel city’s enduring love affair with football, which stakes a claim to be England’s ‘home of football’, given the first football club – Sheffield FC – was formed there in 1857. It’s a passion that grew in World War 1, when the thousands of women were working in the city’s numerous munitions-producing factories. Several formed women’s teams, who held fund-raising matches in aid of the war effort and wounded soldiers. It led to a South Yorkshire Ladies League running in 1917/18.

More recently, the history of women’s football in the city features Sheffield Wednesday Ladies, who trace their origins back to 1971, when it started life as the women’s team of the Star Inn. They later changed their name to Sheffield Ladies before taking their current moniker. It means the club has a 50+ year history. Across the city, Sheffield United Women today grace The FA Women’s Championship, the second tier of the professional women’s game in England. It’s all testimony to the city’s ongoing and proud women’s football heritage, which has produced current England internationals Millie Bright and Ellie Roebuck.

1859: According to some sources, a female was admitted as a member of Sheffield Foot Ball Club – possibly the first in football history.

1864: According to some sources, Sheffield Football Club by this time had at least 24 female members.

1875: A photo of ‘The Sheffield football team’ – probably a Sheffield FA representative team – has two women in it – who were they. The men are all named in the caption but the women are unnamed.

1877-1914: Reports indicate that many women spectators attended local men’s matches.

May 1881: A group of women decided to stage a series of football matches between themselves to paying audiences in Scotland and England. They called themselves England and Scotland. The first match was in Edinburgh on 7th May 1881. The Rotherham Advertiser predicted it would – and should – also be the last women’s football match: 

‘The “exhibition”…is not likely to be repeated. A more degrading outdoor spectacle there could not well be, and in the interests of public morality the authorities ought to interfere should a similar performance be again threatened’.

The two teams soon met again, but in Glasgow and Manchester, the matches had to be abandoned due to pitch invasions by large numbers of spectators, causing the players to run to their horse-drawn omnibus for safety. 

30th May 1881: The touring ‘England’ and ‘scotland’ teams met at the Queen’s Hotel Grounds in Hillsborough, Sheffield. Nearly 1,000 spectators saw ‘England’ win 2-1. The match was advertised as a ‘grand international football match’ but described as a ‘football farce’ in the Sheffield Independent on 31/5/1881.

Nov 1893: Rawmarsh Ladies beat Wath Gentlemen in a charity football match in Rotherham which raised £2 1s 4d for the Wath and Brampton Relief Fund to help families during a coal dispute.

6 May 1895: Two touring teams from The British Ladies Football Club (based in London) played at the Sheaf House ground, Bramall Lane, Sheffield, watched by around 3,000 paying spectators.

1902: The FA banned football matches between men and women.

1916-8: Several women’s football teams were established in Sheffield and Rotherham, mainly at munitions factories. Matches were played as fundraisers for wounded soldiers and other causes. Some attracted thousands of spectators.

1917-18: A South Yorkshire Ladies’ League ran for one season. Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham and Barnsley men’s clubs all hosted women’s matches at their stadiums.

28th May 1917: A Sheffield team from Vickers played Barnsley ladies at Hillsborough in front of an estimated 17,000 in a charity match for Colonel Connell’s Fund. It was part of a charity sports event. It was reported to be the biggest attendance at a sports event in Sheffield for twenty years.

14th April 1921: Dick, Kerr Ladies of Preston played in Rotherham in front of 18-20,000 spectators, beating Lister’s Ladies of Bradford 7-0 and raising £800 for unemployed ex-servicemen.

4th May 1921: Dick, Kerr Ladies of Preston beat Atalanta from Huddersfield 4-0 at Hillsborough stadium, Sheffield, in a charity match attended by 20-25,000. 

5th Dec 1921: The FA banned women from playing football on the grounds of FA-affiliated clubs. The ban lasted until 1971.

26th Aug 1929: Carbrook beat Darwin’s 9-4 in a match at the Steel Products ground, Templeborough.

16th Sep1929: Carbrook played Clay Cross at W. Cooke’s ground, Sheffield.

25/8/1930: Carbrook beat Sheffield United Ladies Supporters Club 2-1 watched by over 1,000 at Cooke’s sports ground.

6/8/1931: ‘The world’s champion’ Preston Ladies (‘late Dick, Kerr’s’) played All England Ladies at Abbeydale Park, Dore, Sheffield as part of what was billed as ‘Sheffield’s greatest charity gala’. Charities that benefitted included the Poor Children’s Outing Fund and the Hospital Cot Fund. Preston won 9-1 in front of several thousand spectators.

30/7/1932: – Dick Kerr Ladies (Preston) beat Femina Sport of Paris 4 v 2 at Abbeydale Park, Sheffield in a charity match that was billed as England v France. the attendance was around 2,000.

28/9/1933: Kiveton Park beat Dinnington 4-2 on the Dinnington Athletic ground in front of a crowd of over 600. Proceeds were for Dinnington’s hospital effort in aid of Sheffield Joint Hospitals.

1/7/1935: Killamarsh beat Harthill 4-2 at the Nethergreen Rovers ground, Killamarsh, for the Hospital Cup. Part of Killamarsh Hospital week.

13/8/1935: Harthill beat Mosborough 3-0 as part of Mosborough & District Hospital Week.

27/6-5/7/1936: Women’s matches were planned as part of Killamarsh Hospital Week (Killamarsh Carnival)

24/5/1938: Killamarsh beat Harthill 3-1 at the Nag’s Head ground, Killamarsh. Organised by the Harthill Physical Culture Club.

25/11/1950: Sheffield Weekly Telegraph claims that in some places, notably South Yorkshire, women’s football is growing in popularity and attracting crowds of thousands.

c. 1951-56: A charity match – Canklow Fat ‘Uns v Thin ‘Uns – took place in Rotherham.

15/7/1953: (Weds evening): A match was played between Manchester Corinthians and South Yorkshire at Owlerton Stadium on behalf of the Infantile Paralysis Fellowship Fund. They also played each other in 1952.

14/7/1954: South Yorkshire Ladies team (“Yorkshire champions”) played Corinthian Ladies (the holders, from Manchester) at Sheffield Sports Stadium, Penistone Road for the IPF Cup, in aid of the Infantile Paralysis Fellowship. Corinthians won 5-2. They also played the Corinthians on Thursday 24th June at Stretford’s 36th Pageant.

4/7/1956: Corinthians played Droylsden (both of Manchester) for the Infantile Paralysis Fellowship trophy at the Sports Stadium, Penistone Road, Sheffield 6.

1/11/1969: The Women’s Football Association (WFA) was formed in London with 44 founder clubs attending its first AGM in 1970 (none from South Yorkshire).

1969: Kilnhurst Shooting Stars formed as a youth team. They were later known as Kilnhurst Ladies, Millmoor Ladies, Parkgate and are still going now as Rotherham United Women.

1970: The FA ban on women playing on FA-affiliated pitches was lifted.

1970: A  Sheffield Ladies League started with 5 teams and ran till around 1974/75. The first Champions were Rotherham Blue Dynamoes, followed by Kilnhurst Shooting Stars, Jervis Lum, Barrier Hoppers and Rotherham NALGO. There was also a team called Tempered Springs who played at least one friendly in Feb 1970 (v Barrier Hoppers). This picture of the Barrier Hoppers team, which played in this league, appeared in the Sheffield Star in 1970. Please get in touch if you know any more about the team or the league.

1971-c1974: Other teams joined the Sheffield Ladies League, including Star Ladies, Sun Alliance, Doncaster Belles, Sanderson Kaysers, Fleece Fillies (from Ossett), Viners Bluebirds and United Bombers.

1971: Star Ladies were formed after a men v women charity match at the Star Inn, Rotherham. In 1981 they changed their name to Sheffield Ladies, became Sheffield Wednesday in 1990 and are still going.

1/4/1973: A Women’s FA Cup semi-final was played at Brown Bayley Sports Ground, Olivers Mount, Handsworth, Sheffield – Amersham Angels v Westthorn United.

1975: Kilnhurst Shooting Stars won the Sheffield League Cup.

May 1976: Cathy Hamstead of Kilnhurst Ladies, later known as Cathy Bird, was selected to join the England International Squad. She played for England in 1977 and went on tour with the squad to Italy.

Sep 1976: Sheffield & District Referees Association enrolled its first female member, Karen Williams.

1976: Annette Harvey of Kilnhurst Ladies qualifies as a referee with the F.A.

March 1978: One of Sheffield & District Referees Association’s two female members, June Jenkins, ran the line at the Women’s FA Cup final in Slough.

1970s: There was a Yorkshire Ladies team who played some of the leading teams from the North-West.

1982: University of Sheffield reached the semi-final of the UAU (University Athletic Union) women’s 5-a-side tournament (12 teams entered)

1983: University of Sheffield were runners-up in the UAU women’s 5-a-side tournament (13 teams entered, 2 of them from Sheffield. Loughborough were the winners.

1988: Yorkshire & Humberside League was formed. Doncaster Belles were the first champions in 1989.

7/4/1990: England played Belgium at Bramall Lane in European Women’s Championships qualifying game. England won 1-0 with Gill Coulthard of Doncaster Belles the goalscorer.

1990: University of Sheffield reached the semi-finals of the BUSA (British University Sports Association) women’s 11-a-side competition, (19 teams entered) and again in 1991 (25 entries).

1991: Sheffield Wednesday were in Division One North of the WFA National Women’s Football League.

1991/92 season: Sheffield Polytechnic/Sheffield Hallam University women’s team formed.

1992: Sheffield & District Ladies Junior League was formed with U12 (7-a-side), U14 and U16 leagues as there was previously a lack of junior football for girls. The U12 league was one of the first in the country at that age group 

10/3/1993: Sheffield Hallam University played in the BSSA Championship final in their first season. Lost to Brighton 4-3 after extra time at Coventry University. 2 goals from Sinead Whelehan and one from Lisa Clark. (British Student Sports Association – formerly the BPSA – British Polytechnics Sports Association – now open to all HEIs. Over 50 institutions took part) 

1993: Sheffield Hallam United formed, as a partnership between Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield United, and played in the Yorkshire and Humberside League. Folded in c. 1998. Arguably the first Sheffield United women’s team.

1993: Loxley Girls were formed. The club changed its name and formed a senior team as Steel City Wanderers in 1997. SCW still runs several girls’ teams in 2022, but the senior team folded around 2019.

c1996: Norton Ladies formed. 

9/3/1997: England beat Scotland 6-0 at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Joanne Broadhurst from Sheffield scored a hat-trick.

1/5/2000: Croydon beat Doncaster Belles 2-1 in the FA Cup final at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Attendance 3,434.

2003:  Norton Ladies affiliated with Sheffield FC to form Sheffield FC Ladies.

4/5/2014: Sheffield FC Ladies beat Cardiff City 6-2 in the FA Women’s Premier League Cup final at Pirelli Stadium, Burton Albion FC in front of 405 spectators. Captain Carly Ward scored a hat-trick. 

sources: FURD / The FA

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