Sue Campbell has paid tribute to the impact and foresight of the Women’s Football Association [WFA] on the 50th anniversary of its formation.
On 1 November 1969 representatives from 44 clubs attended the inaugural meeting of the Ladies Football Association of Great Britain at Caxton Hall, London, which shortly after became known as the Women’s Football Association, assuming responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the amateur women’s game in England.
The anniversary of the WFA comes just a week before England Women take on Germany in front of a sell-out crowd at Wembley Stadium; a striking illustration of the incredible progress that has been made over the past 50 years.
Baroness Campbell, The FA’s director of women’s football, said: “There is no doubt whatsoever that we wouldn’t be where we are today without the dedication and hard work of the Women’s Football Association in a very difficult climate that made the progression of the women’s game hugely challenging.
“Thanks in large part to their considerable efforts we now enjoy levels of participation, engagement, recognition and support which means we are set to see more than 80,000 fans supporting the England Women’s team at our national stadium next week.
“I’m delighted too that we have the opportunity to celebrate next Saturday’s occasion in the company of many of England’s former players.
“The fact that the game will be watched by a sell-out crowd – and by hundreds of thousands more watching on television – is testament not just to the work that we are doing now, but crucially to the work that so many others did to pave the way in England for the development of the game.”
Shortly after the formation of the WFA plans were put in place for a national cup competition, with early rounds taking place regionally in eight groups, culminating in the final played at London’s Crystal Palace National Sports Stadium. This was the early forerunner to what is now the Women's FA Cup.
By the early 1970s the Football Association finally lifted its ban on women playing football on the grounds of its affiliated clubs. In 1983 the WFA was affiliated to the Football Association and, in September 1991, the WFA established a women's national league comprised of 24 clubs.
However, it wasn’t until June 1993 that The FA took over the management and co-ordination of the women’s game.
In the lead up to the 50th anniversary The FA presented a special award to WFA founder member Patricia Gregory at the Women’s Football Awards in June, in recognition of the dedication and exhaustive commitment of the members of the WFA to the development of the women’s game in England.
Baroness Campbell added: “It was an honour earlier this year to present Patricia with the recognition she and all the members of the WFA truly deserve.”