English Ladies Football Association

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The English Ladies' Football Association (ELFA) was formed in 1921 and active until 1922. It was arguably a direct response to the Football Association (FA)’s ban on women’s football teams. [1] The first meeting of the ELFA was held several weeks after the ban and Leonard Bridgett, the manager and coach of Stoke Ladies, was its first president. [2] Bridgett helped to organise the first and only English Ladies Football Association Challenge Cup competition in the spring of 1922. 24 teams entered the competition and the winners were Stoke Ladies, who beat Doncaster and Bentley Ladies 3-1 on 24 June 1922. [3]

The Football Association governing body of association football in England

The Football Association (FA) is the governing body of association football in England and the Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man. Formed in 1863, it is the oldest football association in the world and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the amateur and professional game in its territory.

Association football Team field sport

Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a team sport played with a spherical ball between two teams of eleven players. It is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world's most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field called a pitch with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to score by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing goal.

Stoke-on-Trent City and unitary authority in England

Stoke-on-Trent is a city and unitary authority area in Staffordshire, England, with an area of 36 square miles (93 km2). Together with the neighbouring boroughs of Newcastle-under-Lyme and Staffordshire Moorlands, it is part of North Staffordshire. In 2016, the city had a population of 261,302.


The ELFA folded in over a year, and women continued to play in local parks and even dog-tracks, with no money or infrastructural support from the Football Association, no resources, coaches or pitches. These restrictions stayed in place for fifty years and was only lifted in 1971. [4]


Women's football had already been established before World War I but it had not been well received until the Football League suspended all of its matches after the 1914-15 season. [5] As a generation of young men signed up to serve their country, the women took on traditional male roles, which had been previously considered unsuitable for women and their physical frame. The most familiar image was the munitions factory girl, who enjoys kickabouts during their breaks. As the war progressed, women's football transformed into a more formalised sport with many women’s teams emerging from munitions factories. At the time, it was organised for fund-raising for war charities. At first, people flock to see the so-called munitionettes take on teams of injured soldiers and women from other factories. Eventually, they started to enjoy the matches for the skill and ability of the women players. In August 1917, the Munitionettes' Cup was established, with the first winners being Blyth Spartans.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Ammunition General term for a wide range of weapon items such as bombs, missiles, mines and projectiles

Ammunition is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon. Ammunition is both expendable weapons and the component parts of other weapons that create the effect on a target. Nearly all mechanical weapons require some form of ammunition to operate.

Blyth, Northumberland town and civil parish in southeast Northumberland, England

Blyth is a town and civil parish in southeast Northumberland, England. It lies on the coast, to the south of the River Blyth and is approximately 13 miles (21 km) northeast of Newcastle upon Tyne. It has a population of about 37,339.

However, when the war was over, the factories started closing and women who had been liberated during wartime was forced to return to their "right and proper place" in society. No longer seen as being moral and appropriate, football was now considered to be unladylike and dangerous for women’s health by so-called medical experts and physicians. On 5 December 1921, the FA cited strong opinions about football's unsuitability for females. They even requested the clubs belonging to the Association to refuse the use of their grounds for woman’s matches. In response, on 10 December 1921, a meeting was held in Liverpool. It was attended by representatives of about 30 women's football teams. The meeting resulted in the establishment of the English Ladies Football Association (ELFA), with a league of 57 teams of amateur players. The ELFA’s goals were to support women footballers, popularise the game amongst women and assist charity. One of the first teams to declare their intention of joining was Chorley Ladies FC, who had 60 members and who had raised over £3,000 for charity. [6] .

Liverpool City and Metropolitan borough in England

Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in North West England, with an estimated population of 491,500. Its metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the UK, with a population of 2.24 million in 2011. The local authority is Liverpool City Council, the most populous local government district in the metropolitan county of Merseyside and the largest in the Liverpool City Region.

Chorley town in Lancashire, England

Chorley is a town in Lancashire, England, 8.1 miles (13 km) north of Wigan, 10.8 miles (17 km) south west of Blackburn, 11 miles (18 km) north west of Bolton, 12 miles (19 km) south of Preston and 19.5 miles (31 km) north west of Manchester. The town's wealth came principally from the cotton industry.

W. Henley was appointed as Secretary of the Association’s pro team. He was assigned to set up another meeting in Liverpool for which about 60 clubs were expected to be present. The meeting actually took place in Blackburn on 17 December with representatives attending from 57 clubs, and expressions of interest were sent by many others unable to be present. After a long discussion, some changes in the rules were accepted to accommodate women players, including:

Blackburn town in Lancashire, England

Blackburn is a town in Lancashire, England, north of the West Pennine Moors on the southern edge of the Ribble Valley, 9 miles (14 km) east of Preston and 20.9 miles (34 km) NNW of Manchester. Blackburn is bounded to the south by Darwen, with which it forms the unitary authority of Blackburn with Darwen; Blackburn is its administrative centre.

  1. Size of playing field will be altered.
  2. Introduction of a lighter ball.
  3. Eliminating charging
  4. Use of hands will be allowed to protect face.

Appointed officers of the Association

  1. President - Leonard Bridgett (Trent Vale)
  2. Vice-President - Fred K. Selman (Coventry)
  3. Vice-President - T. Foley (Darwen)
  4. Vice-President - Harry Longworth (Fleetwood)
  5. Vice-President - Thomas Ballham (Stoke)
  6. Vice-President - Mrs Barraclough (Huddersfield)


On 7 January 1922, a meeting between the ELFA’s officers took place in Manchester, where they approved the ball to be used and maximum and minimum pitch sizes. The President, Leonard Bridgett, presented a cup for the Ladies' English Cup Competition. The meeting selected a representative team for the forthcoming match in Grimsby on 21 January against the Grimsby and District Ladies (formerly Cleethorpes Ladies). On 18 February 1922, a Council meeting took place at the Queen's Hotel in Birmingham. An ELFA’s deputation met representatives of the Northern Union (Rugby), and their ground ban was removed for ELFA-affiliated clubs. [7] The draw for the first round of the ELFA Cup competition was also organised then. 23 clubs participated in the competition and the results are as follows: ELFA 1st Round 18th March 1922

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 545,500 in 2017; the Greater Manchester Built-up Area is the United Kingdom's second-most populous, with a population of 2.55 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority is Manchester City Council. Manchester is frequently referred to as the United Kingdom's "second city".

Grimsby seaport in Lincolnshire, England

Grimsby, also Great Grimsby, is a large coastal English seaport and administrative centre in North East Lincolnshire, on the South Bank of the Humber Estuary, close to where it reaches the North Sea. It ran the largest fishing fleet in the world by the mid-20th century, but fishing declined dramatically after the Cod Wars denied UK access to Icelandic fishing grounds, and the European Union parcelled out fishing quotas in waters within a 200-mile limit of the UK coast to other European countries, in line with its Common Fisheries Policy. Since then Grimsby has suffered post-industrial decline, although food manufacturing has been encouraged since the 1990s. The Grimsby–Cleethorpes conurbation acts as a cultural, shopping and industrial centre for much of northern and eastern Lincolnshire. Grimsby people are called Grimbarians; the term codhead is also used jokingly, often for Grimsby football supporters. Great Grimsby Day is 22 January.

Cleethorpes seaside resort town in North East Lincolnshire, England

Cleethorpes is a seaside resort on the estuary of the Humber in North East Lincolnshire with a population of nearly 40,000 in 2011. It has been permanently occupied since the 6th century, with fishing as its original industry, then developing into a resort in the 19th century.

FleetwoodManchester United
Mersey AmazonsRochdale
GrimsbyDoncaster Bentley
HuddersfieldHuddersfield Atalanta
Stoke UnitedWinning Team

ELFA Cup second Round 22 April 1922

Mersey Amazons or RochdaleFleetwood or Manchester
StokeHuddersfield Alexandra
Huddersfield AtalantaChell United

ELFA Cup Third Round 20 May 1922

Manchester UnitedDoncaster
Huddersfield Atalanta

ELFA Cup Semi Final

Huddersfield AtalantaDoncaster Bentleys

Influence & Legacy

Despite being short-lived, the ELFA built the foundation for the revival of interest and development of women’s football in the UK. The health of the women's game was demonstrated in 1937. Dick Kerr's and Edinburgh Ladies, the top two teams in the UK, met in a match coined as The Championship of Great Britain and The World, with Dick Kerr's beating Edinburgh Ladies 5-1. [8] The ELFA’s successor, the Women’s Football Association (WFA), was established in 1969. Under the WFA, women’s game continued to grow, with a national England team and a premier league. However, the WFA was also a voluntary-led organisation and had rather limited resources. Even at the top levels, matches organised by the Association were often rescheduled or cancelled. In the 1970s, there was an international recommendation for all football authorities to include the women’s game and the Sex Discrimination Act, which contained a clause exempting sports, was passed in 1975. However, it was only until 1992 that the FA finally decided to lift the ban on women’s game and bring it under their formal control. [9]

In March 2018, the National Football Museum opened an extension to its permanent gallery dedicated to women’s football. The extension included the English Ladies Football Association Winner’s Medal awarded to Lilian Bridgett of Stoke Ladies in 1922. [10]

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  2. "Stoke Ladies FC and the 'ban' on women's football". The National Football Museum. 2 October 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  3. "Women's Association Football". WOMEN'S SOCCER UNITED. 7 April 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  4. "World War, Mon Amour – A Brief History of Women's Football". Football Paradise. 18 October 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  5. "The female football mania that led to it being banned". BBC News. 12 December 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  6. F. Lee, James (2008). The Lady Footballers. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. P–120. ISBN   9780415426091.
  7. "The English Ladies' Football Association". Donmouth. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  8. "FA's broken promise ends Fulham's brave new world". The Independent. 3 May 2003. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  9. "Banned by the FA: Unlocking the hidden histories of women's football". Museum Crush. 7 September 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  10. "ENGLISH LADIES FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION WINNER'S MEDAL, 1922". Museum Crush. Retrieved 26 July 2018.