The English Ladies' Football Association

Following the end of the Great War, most of the women who had been engaged on munitions work were speedily discharged from employment, and their football teams rapidly disappeared. This was particularly true in north east England and Cumbria, where women's football virtually ceased to exist after the summer of 1919. Elsewhere in the country it had established more firm roots, and women continued playing football for charity right through 1920 and 1921. Towns with active teams during this period included St Helens, Fleetwood, Chorley, Bath, Plymouth, Coventry, Stoke and Huddersfield, but the team which attracted the most attention by far was the Dick, Kerr Ladies of Preston. Despite its increasing popularity, both in terms of spectators and participants, women's football remained a vulgar spectacle to the more conservative elements in society, whose influence was greater than their numbers would warrant. A battalion of so-called "Medical Experts" came forward to denounce the game as being potentially injurious to women's health, while others attacked women footballers on the grounds that they were "unladylike". Their ranks even included some feminists. One organisation which was not happy with the growth in women's football was the Football Association. On the 5th December 1921 it adopted the following drastic resolution: "Complaints having been made as to football being played by women, the council feel impelled to express their strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged. Complaints have also been made as to the conditions under which some of these matches have been arranged and played, and the appropriation of receipts to other than charitable objects. The council are further of the opinion that an excessive proportion of the receipts are absorbed in expenses and an inadequate percentage devoted to charitable objects. For these reasons the council request clubs belonging to the association to refuse the use of their grounds for such matches." The next meeting of the fledgling Association had been scheduled for Liverpool, but actually took place in Blackburn on 17th December. It was a larger gathering than the first, with representatives attending from 57 clubs, and expressions of interest were sent by many others unable to be present. Mr W. Henley was confirmed as acting secretary, and the following were appointed officers of the Association: President - Leonard Bridgett (Trent Vale) Vice-President - Fred K. Selman (Coventry) Vice-President - T. Foley (Darwen) Vice-President - Harry Longworth (Fleetwood) Vice-President - Thomas Ballham (Stoke) Vice-President - Mrs Barraclough (Huddersfield) English Ladies' Football Association Challenge Cup First Round Draw Stoke v Newcastle Smallthorne v Chell Birmingham v Dunlop Coventry v Aston Fleetwood v Manchester United Mersey Amazons v Rochdale Plymouth v Marazion Ediswan v Osram Grimsby v Doncaster Bentley Huddersfield v Huddersfield Atalanta Boston v Lincoln Stoke United v Huddersfield Alexandra Stoke United were essentially Stoke Ladies reserve team and indeed it was the first team that knocked the reserves out of the competition with a 6-0 win. Stoke Ladies eventually reached the final to play Doncaster Bentley. ELFA Cup Final - played before 2,000 spectators at Cobridge. Heavy rain fell on the day of the match, which no doubt contributed to the poor attendance of only 2,000 spectators. Doncaster took up the attack from the start and after only five minutes they had secured a penalty, which Emma Smith converted. Stoke rallied, and before the interval they scored twice with excellent shots from Daisy Bates and Elsie Stanyer. In the second half both teams seemed to struggle with the heavy going, with Stoke managed to increase their lead through a penalty which was taken by Dolly Cooper. Len Bridgett's team had won Len Bridgett's trophy, no doubt to the delight of the man himself. Stoke Ladies with the ELFA Cup back row: Mrs. Amelia Bridgett, Lizzie Smith, Dolly Cooper, Lily Brindley, Lizzie Carroll, Gladys Bridgett, Len Bridgett centre row: Hilda Durber, unknown, Daisy Bates, Elsie Stanier, Ida Bridgett front row: Tilly Wagg, Eva Bridgett (photograph courtesy of Jayne Bridgett) The ELFA Cup is still in existence. The Cup, which is silver, and topped with the figure of a woman footballer, stands on a black hardwood base on the front of which is mounted a glazed pottery plaque depicting a group of female footballers. Around the base are a number of silver shields, only one of which is engraved with the name of a winning team - Stoke Ladies FC 1922. For the Full story see the fascinating research done by Patrick Brennan