This is a guest post from Helena Byrne, Web Archivist at the British Library and a member of The Football Collective, a dedicated network of people who wish to bring critical debate to football.
The Irish Ladies XI, The Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 5 August 1932, via British Newspaper Archive
This is a call for all football historians that may have come across references to Irish women’s football of any code prior to and including 1973. When this project first started in January 2019 it was commonly believed that women’s football governing bodies were established in Ireland from 1973 onwards. However, as there is little known about the history and development of women’s football in Ireland it was only recently established in academic spheres that the first women’s football governing body was the Northern Irish Ladies Football Association (NILFA). The NILFA was recognised by the Women’s Football Association (WFA) in December 1972 just a few months before the Ladies Football Association of Ireland (LFA) in 1973 (possibly February) (WFA Archive, British Library MS 89306/1/3).
Although some involved in organising women’s football were aware that the NILFA, which a short time later switched out ladies for women, were established in 1972 the Irish Football Association (IFA) have their founding date as 26 November 1976. This is not surprising as the voluntary nature of women’s football would have meant that many of the original founding members may have only been around for a few years. In addition, there could have been a break in play due to The Troubles as 1972 was one of the bloodiest years on record.
This project is calling on the crowd to share any newspaper references they may have come across prior to and including 1973.
France v Irish eleven at Grosvenor Park, Belfast, Belfast News-Letter, 12 August 1936, via British Newspaper Archive
How to get involved
You can nominate the newspaper references you have here:
Originally the nomination form was due to run for six months, then this was extended for a further six months. However, the project has gathered over two hundred nominations so far and there are many more independent researchers and academics uncovering news clippings about Irish women’s football, that it was felt that the collection period should stay open until further notice.
How the data will be shared
Each newspaper reference will be marked on the map with the details supplied by the nominator and will include the name of the person(s) who nominated that reference. The raw data of nominations up until June 2019 can be viewed here.
After online form closes the data will be cleaned up and deposited with News collections at the British Library. The data will be published as an open source data set that can be accessed by anyone interested in women’s football history.
What to nominate
We are interested in any references to women’s football or female involvement in men’s football on the island of Ireland from any newspaper even if it was published outside Ireland. This includes women attending football matches, being involved in the running of a team as well as playing any code of football such as soccer or Gaelic etc.
It is hoped that this project will start a conversation amongst researchers interested in Irish sports to do more to document the history and development of women’s football. Women’s football of any code only started to become popular in Ireland from the mid 1960’s onwards, but very little is known of what went before. By collaborating through this public form, we can start to piece together the knowledge that exists within the research community and identify where the gaps in our knowledge lie.
A version of this post was first published on the Football Collective website