Celebrating International Women’s Day at Dulwich Hamlet

Wednesday 8th March marks International Women’s Day, which is celebrated in many countries throughout the world. Thousands of events take place not just on the day itself but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

As has been customary in recent years Dulwich Hamlet FC will be marking the occasion on 11th March at our game against Merstham, celebrating the contribution that women have made to Dulwich Hamlet FC, our local community and the game as a whole.

On the match day itself the First XI will be wearing a special all purple kit, the primary colour of the International Women’s Day organisation (IWD), which represents women’s struggle. This kit has been specially produced for the occasion and will feature IWD’s charity partners Catalyst and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ (WAGGGS) logos.

For the match, the Dulwich Hamlet FC side will be led onto the pitch by young footballers, the next generation of women footballers in this country. These girls are from the official DHFC charity partner for 2016/17, Football Beyond Borders Warriors (FBB). FBB offer free of charge football training sessions to get more women playing football. The sessions are run by young female coaches like Karena McKay seeking to make their way into professional coaching.

There are many great women that have paved the way for these young girls to look up to in the sport. Pioneers that have not only taken the women’s game forward but have made valuable contributions in the men’s game and to football as a whole.

Trust Board member, Walter Johnson, has spent the last few months interviewing women across the game, to highlight the breadth of opportunities available to women wanting to make a contribution to the game in a range of roles. International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to focus on what football is doing to provide more visibility for female role models, to inspire future generations to participate in the game.

We’ve spoken to a variety of women in the game, right from the grassroots up to the FA. From coaches educating young girls taking their first kick in the game, right up to players operating at the highest level.  We wanted to hear the stories of these inspiring women.

It is clear that there has been a significant growth in the women’s game in the England over the last fifteen years. There are perhaps two main reasons for this. Firstly, the way Hope Powell’s “Lionesses” captivated the nation during the 2005 European Championships in England and finishing Runner’s Up in Finland in 2009. The team now under Mark Sampson finished third in the 2015 World Cup. Secondly, as Alex Atack explains: “The growth of the women’s game is due to the experience of some of the English players in the Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPS) in USA. Players such as Kelly Smith have ventured over the pond in recent years providing them with the experience of playing in a professional league, and raised their profile worldwide. They returned to England with a different mindset and a desire to develop and promote the women’s game over here, culminating in the first professional league. This has been crucial.” Although as Karen Perie manager of Dee Vale Ladies points out: “Imagine how different it would be if women were not banned from playing football in the UK after the First World War.” In 1921 the FA actually banned women from playing on Football League grounds. It wasn’t until 1969 that this ban was lifted and the Women’s Football Association (WFA) was formed with 44 member clubs. Within three years the first Women’s FA Cup Final and England Women’s international had been played.

In recent years women’s domestic football has evolved with the Football Association Women’s Super League (FA WSL) which began in April 2011 replacing the FA Women’s Premier League as the highest level of women’s football in England. This has raised the profile of women’s football in England which enjoys more television coverage than ever before allowing current WSL1 champions Manchester City to attract the likes of World Player of the Year USA International Carli Lloyd, who signed for them in February 2017.

However, it is important to note that women’s success in the game is not just confined to women’s football. Women have made great strides in the men’s game in recent years. In 1991 Wendy Toms became a reserve (now “fourth“) official in the Football League in 1991 for a Bournemouth v Reading match in the old Third Division, the first woman to operate in the role at that level. Dr Eva Carniero spent six years as the first team doctor at Chelsea between 2009-2015. In 2009 Sian Massey-Ellis became the first women to be a refereeing assistant in a premier league match. Her first Premier League appointment was on 28 December 2010, as an assistant in Blackpool‘s 2–0 away win at Sunderland. On 9 February 2010 Amy Fearn became the first woman to act as the main referee in a Football League match. In 2017 Chan Yuen Ting became the first woman to coach a male football club in a top-flight continental competition when she managed Eastern Sports Club against Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League.

One of the great things about the interviews that we conducted was that we didn’t have to travel very far. There are many women working in football both at a local level and many working in and around our club such as Alex, who is now Vice-Chair of our Supporters’ Trust, Toni Miller our First team Sports Therapist and Laraine Bateman our Club photographer. Not only this, but as many fans and visitors to the club will note, we have a high proportion of women who come to our games supporting the club. This is in no small way due to our collective efforts to be such an inclusive club, with a social conscience, so that anyone and everyone feels welcome.

Over the course of the month of March there will be a global web of rich and diverse local activity connecting women from all around the world ranging from political rallies in cities like London and Manilla, networking events, through to theatre performances, such as “Là où la chèvre broute” starring Adrienne Alcover. The theme this year is #BeBoldForChange – encouraging people to step up and take groundbreaking action to help drive gender equality, something that resonates highly with the FA Executive Dame Heather Rabbatts.

To hear more about these inspiring women in football click on the links below. On Saturday 11th we are also providing free tickets for local women’s football teams to attend our game, so if you are a player and you would like to attend with your team, please contact us at info@dhst.org.uk where we can put you in touch with the relevant club officials.

Adrienne Alcover (the Actress)

Alex Atack (the fan)

Carli Lloyd (the World Cup winner)

Heather Rabbatts (the Executive)

Karena McKay (the coach)

Karen Pirie (the Manager)

Laraine Bateman (the photographer)

Lynsey Morton (the referee)

Phoenix Martins (the semi-pro)

Toni Miller (the physio)