When Football Banned Women

When Football Banned Women


“What do people think about you playing football?” Clare Balding asks the girls of St Helen’s FC. “They think we’re rubbish,” one says. “They think because we’re girls we can’t play football,” says another.

As much as women’s football is thriving – this week sees England’s Euro 2017 matches shown live on Channel 4 – this remains a pervasive opinion. Girls are still being told their sport is less interesting, somehow feebler, than the men’s game, and that’s why there’s no money for them – that’s why they play in empty stadiums.

For many women, then, this film will be both infuriating and gloriously vindicating. It exposes a keen injustice: that women’s football in Britain could today be just as popular as the men’s game, if it were not for a “spiteful, catastrophic” 1921 FA ban that lasted for 50 years. Because a century ago, women were Britain’s footballing superstars – and here, finally, some of them get the recognition they deserve.


Clare Balding uncovers the hidden history of women's football. A hundred years ago, the women's game dominated the headlines and attracted crowds of up to 60,000. The star players everyone wanted to see were teenage striker Lily Parr and her teammate Alice Woods, and the most popular team in England was Dick, Kerr's Ladies. Clare reveals how women's football teams grew out of munitions factories during the First World War where women had replaced men sent into battle. It also uncovers an untold chapter in the fight for equality waged at a time when women ruled the pitch.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Clare Balding
Director Kelly Close
Executive Producer Ollie Tait
Executive Producer Emma Wakefield
Producer Kelly Close