The English Ladies' Football Association

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The English Ladies' Football Association has been referred to by other writers on women's football,1,2 but only briefly, and the fate of the association has remained unknown. This short history attempts to set this right, and to present as detailed an account as possible of the establishment of the ELFA in 1921 and its subsequent demise. This is a ongoing process, so please call back from time to time for an update.

I am grateful to the following for their help in compiling this account - Lynne Bradley, Derek Bridgett, Jayne Bridgett, Rob Carter, Graham Dalling, Eric Dixon, W F Egginton, Shirley Farrand, Tom Holding, Geoff Massey, Paul Niblett, Mrs N Nugent, Ada Rigby, Peter Bridgett, Jane Bridgett, Jayne Bridgett, Jeff Rigby, Barbara Thorley, Peter Wilkinson.

I am particularly grateful to Katherine Hartley, a former student at Staffordshire University who researched the history of Stoke Ladies FC and whose notes provided me with a wealth of useful leads.

If anyone has any information to add please contact me

Following the end of the Great War, most of the women who had been engaged on munitions work were speedily discharged from employment, and their football teams rapidly disappeared. This was particularly true in north east England and Cumbria, where women's football virtually ceased to exist after the summer of 1919. Elsewhere in the country it had established more firm roots, and women continued playing football for charity right through 1920 and 1921. Towns with active teams during this period included St Helens, Fleetwood, Chorley, Bath, Plymouth, Coventry, Stoke and Huddersfield, but the team which attracted the most attention by far was the Dick, Kerr Ladies of Preston. During 1920 they played a number of games against a team of French women, both in England and in France. The opening match of this series is generally recognised as being the first women's football international, although a prior claim may be made for the munitionettes' international in Belfast on Boxing Day 1917.

Despite its increasing popularity, both in terms of spectators and participants, women's football remained a vulgar spectacle to the more conservative elements in society, whose influence was greater than their numbers would warrant. A battalion of so-called "Medical Experts" came forward to denounce the game as being potentially injurious to women's health, while others attacked women footballers on the grounds that they were "unladylike". Their ranks even included some feminists. The writer Madame Sarah Grand (real name Frances Bellenden Clarke) went into some detail in giving her objections; she condemned lacrosse, football, cricket and some forms of gymnastics as positively injurious, stating "the football-playing girl, the boxing girl, the girl who by gymnastics and physical drill of the too strenuous type, flattens her chest and hardens her muscles will never be the ideal." 3 This was a remarkable volte-face by the person whose 1893 novel, The Heavenly Twins, had launched the concept of the "New Woman." Dr. Ethel Williams, the first female doctor to practice in Newcastle upon Tyne, who in her youth had been a suffragette and had taken part in the famous "Mud March" of 1907, said that while she was in favour of girls having opportunities to participate in athletics, she had "always been sorry that they had taken to football instead of taking up some of the more suitable games." 4 These misguided opinions were seized upon and eagerly propagated by others who were opposed in principle to the struggle for women's rights.

One organisation which was not happy with the growth in women's football was the Football Association. On the 5th December 1921 it adopted the following drastic resolution:

"Complaints having been made as to football being played by women, the council feel impelled to express their strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.

Complaints have also been made as to the conditions under which some of these matches have been arranged and played, and the appropriation of receipts to other than charitable objects.

The council are further of the opinion that an excessive proportion of the receipts are absorbed in expenses and an inadequate percentage devoted to charitable objects.

For these reasons the council request clubs belonging to the association to refuse the use of their grounds for such matches."

In the wake of the ban the women footballers received little support from other sportswomen. An official of the Women's Golf Association declined to comment when asked for her opinion, and the seven times Wimbledon champion Dorothea Lambert Chambers also sat on the fence.5

Their reaction was outrage mixed with defiance. On the 10th December a meeting took place in Liverpool which was attended by representatives of around 30 women's teams. This meeting resolved to form a Ladies' Football Association, the main object of which would be, "to popularise the game among girls and to assist charity." Furthermore, it would be its aim "so to deal with the receipts that there shall be no possible ground for complaint." This latter point was clearly in response to the unsubstantiated charges of financial mismanagement levelled by the F.A. One of the first teams to declare their intention of joining was Chorley Ladies FC, who claimed a membership of 60 and who had raised over £3,000 for charity since their formation.

A Grimsby man, W. Henley, was appointed Secretary of the Association pro-tem, and his first task was to organise a further meeting in Liverpool for the following Saturday, at which 60 clubs were expected to be in attendance. In addition to debating and agreeing the draft constitution, this conference would also consider some proposals for changes in the rules to accommodate women players, namely:

  1. Altering the size of the playing field
  2. Introducing a lighter ball
  3. Eliminating charging
  4. Allowing use of the hands to protect the face

The meeting learned from some delegates that women's leagues were in the course of formation in Doncaster and Coventry, and that one was contemplated for the east Riding of Yorkshire and north Lincs. Access to grounds would be difficult following the Football Association's dictum, but several clubs had their own premises, and it was hoped that rugby grounds would also be available.

The members of Lyons Ladies' FC, one of the strongest teams in the south of the country, challenged the detractors in a novel way. On 13th December they staged an exhibition match at Sudbury Hill between two teams from the Strand Corner House and the Regent Palace Hotel. Invitations were issued to thirty representatives of the press to attend and "form an opinion of the desirability of ladies playing this game." The subsequent reports were not particularly complimentary of the standard of play, but most witnesses took the view that football was no more strenuous for women than tennis, hockey, or even basketball.

Lyons Ladies FC

From The Lyons Mail, January 1922
photograph courtesy of Peter Bird

Lyons Ladies FC

From the Daily Herald, 14th December 1921

(Dick, Kerr and Fleetwood staged a similar exhibition match on Boxing Day, to which they invited several representatives of the medical profession. After the game, which Dick, Kerr won 3-1, Dr Mary Lowry gave an interview in which she stated that the playing of the game would be no more harmful to a woman than a heavy day's washing.)

The next meeting of the fledgling Association had been scheduled for Liverpool, but actually took place in Blackburn on 17th December. It was a larger gathering than the first, with representatives attending from 57 clubs, and expressions of interest were sent by many others unable to be present. Mr W. Henley was confirmed as acting secretary, and the following were 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)

The President, Leonard Bridgett, was a charismatic figure whose influence on women's football in his native Staffordshire was considerable. More details of his life can be found here.

A set of rules governing the Association were agreed, but it was decided not to publish them until after the next meeting which was set for 7th January 1922 in Manchester. A number of decisions did emerge however: (a) The members had decided not to alter the rules of football in order to adapt the game to the needs of women players, other than the adoption of a lighter ball and more discretion to be given to referees on handling and charging; (b) It was decided to divide the country up into five sections, each section to formulate its own schemes and fixtures under the supervision of a district committee. The champions of each section would play off in a cup competition. (c) Clubs would have to sign on and register their players, who would all be amateurs, with the Association. This seems a reasonable requirement, but the next two decisions were quite remarkable given the women's recent experience with the high-handedness of the F.A.; (d) Member clubs would be forbidden to play against non-affiliated teams, and (e) a player would not be allowed to appear for a side more than 15 miles from her home town without the permission of the Association. As the Midland Daily Telegraph put it: "This will mean the general breaking-up of the famous Dick Kerr's team, as the players are drawn from all parts of the country." The newly-appointed Council also expressed the view that the management committee of each club should consist of at least three married ladies.

Mrs Barraclough, a newly-elected vice-President and captain of the Huddersfield Atalanta team was interviewed after the meeting. She thought that before long practically all the women's clubs in the country would be in the Association. Asked how many clubs there were in England, she replied, "It is impossible to tell, but there must be 150. Lancashire and Yorkshire are swarming with clubs, and quite a lot are being formed in the London district."

Prior to the next meeting it was announced that a team representing the association would play a match against Cleethorpes Ladies in late January or early February. The venue would probably be the Boulevard in Grimsby, and the proceeds of the match would go to St Anthony's Orphanage. It was also announced that discussions had taken place with the French Ladies' Football Association regarding a proposed tour of the UK in 1922.

It is not clear whether a general meeting of the Association went ahead in Manchester on 7th January 1922, but a meeting of officers did take place. This approved the ball to be used - a size 5 weighing 12 ounces, and maximum and minimum pitch sizes - 110 x 75 yards and 100 x 50 yards respectively. The rules of the Association were agreed, and the President, Leonard Bridgett, presented a cup for a new competition - the Ladies' English Cup Competition. Finally, the meeting also selected a representative team for the forthcoming match in Grimsby, which had been fixed for 21st January at the Boulevard. The opposition, which had changed its name from Cleethorpes Ladies to Grimsby and District Ladies, had been strengthened by the inclusion of Barraclough of Atalanta and Rance of Fleetwood at left back and goalkeeper respectively.

ELFA team: Sidwell (Coventry), Perkins, Scott (Fleetwood), Whitwan (Atalanta), Cooper (Stoke), Worrall (Rochdale), Sedon, Fish (Darwen), Bates (Bridgetts), Tinker (Rochdale), Bridgett (Bridgetts)

Grimsby and District (from): Mrs. L Barraclough, Misses A. Harwood, E. Rance, S. Bedford, B. Skoyles, N. Smith, E. Kennington, A. Ager, F. Shelton, E. Watson, E. Skoyles, E. Hulton, F. Guymer, D. Summers

No reports of this match subsequently appeared in the Grimsby Daily Telegraph. It may well have taken place, as a meeting of the ELFA Council held at the Euston Hotel, London on 4th February decided to "play another international trial match at Plymouth - England v Plymouth and District Ladies." The organiser of this match had given a guarantee of a £1,000 gate. The team selected to represent ELFA was as follows:

ELFA team: Sidwell (Coventry), Barraclough (Huddersfield), Bedford (Grimsby), Mitchell (Huddersfield), Cooper (Stoke), Smith (Grimsby), Bridgett (Bridgetts XI), Watson (Grimsby), Moran (Rochdale), Carroll (Stoke), Edwards (Coventry)

So far no report of this game has been discovered. The Council Meeting, which was primarily convened to explain the aims and objectives of ELFA to representatives of a number of London clubs, also reported that a recent communication to the Football Association requesting the lifting of the ban had received the response that "the matter was under consideration."

Huddersfield Atalanta FC 1921

Huddersfield Atalanta 1921
(photograph courtesy of Richard Law)

At the Council meeting which took place at the Queen's Hotel in Birmingham on 18th February it was reported that a deputation from ELFA had met representatives of the Northern Union (Rugby), and their ground ban had been removed so far as ELFA-affiliated clubs were concerned. The draw for the first round of the ELFA Cup competition also took place. Although 58 clubs were now affiliated to the Association, only 23 had entered the competition and were drawn as follows:

English Ladies' Football Association Challenge Cup
First Round Draw

FleetwoodvManchester United
Mersey AmazonsvRochdale
GrimsbyvDoncaster Bentley
HuddersfieldvHuddersfield Atalanta
Stoke United-bye

(to be played on or before 18th March 1922)

It is clear that the draw was not completely "out of the hat", as a number of ties were evidently arranged with the intention of minimising the amount of travelling necessary. A late entry by Huddersfield Alexandra ensured that Stoke United would have some opposition in the first round.

Given that a reported 57 clubs attended the formative meeting on 17th December 1921, (and according to Mrs Barraclough Yorkshire and Lancashire were swarming with clubs), the number of entries appears disappointingly low. Bradford (Hey's Brewery), Chorley, St Helen's, Darwen, Lyon's and Bath are some of the teams one might have expected to feature in the competition. Lack of finances, and difficulties in getting access to grounds would certainly have been a problem for some clubs.

The most noticeable absentee from the competition was the Dick, Kerr ladies' FC. According to Gail Newsham,2 the Dick, Kerr ladies appeared to be in the dark regarding the ELFA, and Alfred Frankland, their manager, had planned to attend the meeting in Liverpool to find out more about it. This seems rather odd; through 1920 and 1921 the Dick, Kerr team had become established as the strongest and best-known women's team in the country. Alfred Frankland had close contacts with all the other clubs of note, and it is inconceivable that he would not have known about the moves to create an English Ladies' Football Association. The failure of the club to enter the tournament may therefore indicate that Dick, Kerr had declined to affiliate to the Association.

Why should this be so? Frankland does not appear to have been opposed in principle to the better organisation of women's football. In 1918 he had written to other clubs to canvass support for a Lancashire Ladies' League.6 He would certainly have had misgivings though regarding the restriction on women playing for teams more than 20 miles from their home, as this would have disbarred some of his best players. He may even have recognised that the bureaucratic structure being established by the ELFA was not best suited to the women's game at this stage in its development. Probably the main reason for his reluctance, however, was the fact that the Dick, Kerr club had by this stage evolved into a highly effective and professional fund-raising operation, which he intended to keep firmly under his personal control.

The list of participating teams indicates the popularity of women's football in two areas in particular - Huddersfield and Stoke-on-Trent. Huddersfield was represented by three teams, and the Stoke area by no fewer than five - Stoke Ladies, known locally as "Len Bridgett's team," Stoke United, also managed by Len Bridgett, Smallthorne, Chell and Newcastle-under-Lyme. The goalkeeper for Stoke Ladies was Lily Brindley, a giant of a woman, who must have thoroughly intimidated the opposing forwards. (In later life she distributed fruit and vegetables from a pony trap, and cut an impressive figure as she returned home at the end of the day, standing upright on her cart as she whipped the horse through the streets of Maybank like a latter-day Boadicea) 7

The first tie of the tournament was played on 4th March at the old Port Vale ground at Cobridge, and featured Stoke Ladies versus Newcastle Ladies. It proved to be a mismatch; the Newcastle team were far less experienced than their opponents, having been formed as recently as February, and found themselves on the wrong end of a 10-0 thrashing. Daisy Bates, inside-right for Stoke got 7 of the goals, with the remainder coming from right-winger Tilly Wagg, inside-left Elsie Stanyer, and centre-half Dolly Cooper.

Three ties were played on 11th March 1922. Ediswan and Osram met at Bury Street, Enfield. Not only were these teams near neighbours in geographical terms; they were in the same industrial sector, both manufacturing electric light bulbs and radio valves. Osram took the lead after 20 minutes when they forced a corner, and in the ensuing melee one of the Ediswan defenders handled the ball. The resulting penalty kick was successfully converted by Watts. Ediswan responded with a series of attacks, during the course of which Laird was fouled inside the penalty area. She took the kick herself to equalise the scores. The second half saw Ediswan pile on the pressure, and Egan soon gave them the lead. Osram came back at them, and on several occasions came very close to scoring, but Laird eventually got her second goal to make the final score 3-1.

On the same day Smallthorne and Chell faced each other at Cobridge. Smallthorne had the ball in the net first through Latham, but she was ruled offside. The first half was vigorously contested by both teams, with Chell's right full back Leese distinguishing herself by her tackling and blocking. In the last minute of the half she was injured and had to retire, but was able to resume after the interval. Despite having the wind against them in the second half, Chell had the better of the play, and scored the only goal through centre-forward Gladys Trueman.

The final tie to be played on this date was the derby game at Huddersfield. This was played at the Moor End ground in Lockwood, the home of Huddersfield Ladies. Home advantage counted for nothing as the Atalanta team proved too strong for their local rivals, running out 2-1 winners with goals from centre-forward Edgley and left-winger Waller.

The following Saturday, March 18th, Grimsby and District entertained the team from Doncaster and Bentley. The press had problems with the name of the latter team, describing them on more than one occasion as Doncaster Bentley's*. The Grimsby team were unbeaten, but Doncaster and Bentley had an impressive record, their match record being played 14, won 13, lost 1, goals for 47, goals against 12. Their forwards were far too strong for the Grimsby women, who returned home with a 7-1 scoreline against them.

* They actually began life in 1921 as Bentley Ladies, formed during the coal dispute of that year to play against other women's teams from colliery villages, raising money for local Relief Funds. One of their star players was Lucy Bromage, whose father Harry Bromage had made 143 appearances in goal for Leeds City before the war. Bentley Ladies proved to be the strongest team in the area, and even won a trophy - the Walton Cup, presented by Mr Tom Walton of Wakefield. Why they adopted the name Doncaster and Bentley is not known, but it may simply have been to give them a big-town image.

Somewhat surprisingly, Dunlop did not play their tie with Birmingham on either of these dates. On March 11th, and again on March 18th they entertained the ladies of Roberts Ltd, losing 1-0 on each occasion. Newspaper coverage of women's football in the Birmingham area was almost non-existent, and we rely upon the company magazine, the Dunlop Gazette for this information.

On 25th March Plymouth played their first round tie against the ladies of Marazion, a small town in Cornwall which lies five miles to the east of Penzance. This was not, however, the Plymouth Ladies' club which had faced Fémina at Home Park on 21st May 1921, and had subsequently been invited by the French Ladies' Football Federation to represent England at matches in Paris and Le Havre. This was a more recently-formed team, whose full name was "The Plymouth and District Amateur Ladies Athletic and Football Club." In response to the new club choosing a similar title, the older club chose to rename themselves "The Plymouth International Ladies FC." This led to some rather unseemly exchanges in the columns of the local newspaper between supporters and officials of the two clubs, fuelled no doubt by the fact that the Manager of of the "Amateur" ladies had formerly been the trainer of the other side, and had poached two of their better players.The public spat came to an end on 22nd April 1922 when the editor of the Western Morning News decided that further controversy would serve no good purpose.

Marazion Ladies 1922

The cup tie took place at Randwick Park, Plymouth, in a very strong wind which adversely affected the play. Plymouth, playing with the wind at their backs, scored first through L. Rawlings, but after the interval Marazion were able to take advantage of the conditions and equalised with a goal from M. Trudgen. The scores were still level at the final whistle, but the teams agreed to play 20 minutes of extra time, and Plymouth scored the winning goal almost immediately through G. Harris.

Plymouth v Marazion 1922

From the Western Morning News, 27th March 1922

That same evening the draw for the second round took place in the Victoria Hotel, Manchester. As can be seen below, five first round ties were still to be decided. Of the others, I have not (yet) found a report of the Boston v Lincoln game.

English Ladies' Football Association Challenge Cup
Second Round Draw

Mersey Amazons or RochdalevFleetwood or Manchester
Coventry or AstonvBirmingham or Dunlop
StokevStoke United or Huddersfield Alexandra
Huddersfield AtalantavChell United

(to be played on or before 22nd April 1922)

Two of these outstanding ties were scheduled for 1st April; in the first of these Stoke United Ladies defeated Huddersfield Alexandra 2-1 at Cobridge. Stoke United was essentially the Stoke Ladies Reserves, and some of their number turned out for the first team later in the competition! The other tie was between Frank Sugg's Mersey Amazons and Rochdale. This had been arranged to take place at One Ash, Rochdale, the home of Bright's FC. (Jacob Bright's was a textile mill which dominated Rochdale's landscape and economy) The game did not take place, and according to the Rochdale Observer the organisers incurred a loss of £20, but no reason for the cancellation was given. The most likely explanation is that the committee of Bright's FC, who played in the Rochdale and District Amateur League, had been warned off by the Lancashire F.A. The result of this tie has yet to be discovered, along with the Birmingham v Dunlop, Manchester v Fleetwood and Coventry v Aston games. None of the Coventry papers reported on the latter, and it is doubtful that it ever took place. There seems to have been strong opinions against women's football in Coventry; in early March Fred Selman, the local representative for ELFA, had approached the Coventry British Legion Executive with a proposal for a North v Midlands match to raise funds for distressed ex-servicemen and their dependents. After some discussion, at which the Rev K. Swallow spoke strongly against women's football, it was decided not to proceed.

The second round draw had pitched Stoke Ladies against Stoke United, which must have made team selection a considerable headache for Len Bridgett, who eventually fielded three of his daughters in the Stoke Ladies team - Ida, Lily and Eva. He made the right decision, as they beat Stoke United 6-0 at Cobridge on 15th April.

April 22nd saw a further two second round ties decided; Chell travelled to Cowlersley, the home ground of Huddersfield Atalanta, and put up a brave performance, going down by a narrow 2-1 margin. The other tie however, in which Doncaster and Bentley Ladies entertained Lincoln at Bentley was something of a farce. The Doncaster Gazette observed that some of the Lincoln players had hardly kicked a ball before. A comment such as this might easily be put down to male prejudice, but in this case, given the scoreline of 20-0 to Doncaster, the observation may have been true. Doncaster's centre-forward, Emma Smith, scored 11 of the goals, and Ivy Molton in the Doncaster goal did not have to make a single save.

At this stage there were signs that the progress of the tournament was anything but smooth; the Huddersfield Examiner reported on 24th April that the semi-final would be drawn that day at Stoke, but that only three clubs remained in the competition. In fact, the semi-final was not drawn at Stoke on 24th April; instead a third round draw took place there on 5th May 1922, involving a total of six clubs. It is possible that the newspaper report was simply wrong; on the other hand, it may be that some teams had been forced to withdraw, but were subsequently persuaded to continue, possibly through financial assistance with travelling costs.

English Ladies' Football Association Challenge Cup
Third Round Draw

Manchester UnitedvDoncaster
Huddersfield Atalanta-bye

(to be played on or before 20th May 1922)

The tie between Doncaster and Manchester took place at Manchester on 20th May; goals from Maria Bull, Maggie Murphy and Lily Marshall took Doncaster through in a 3-2 victory over the home team. Stoke subsequently beat Birmingham 3-1 (date yet to be established). The semi-final draw was announced on 25th May 1922, as follows:

English Ladies' Football Association Challenge Cup
Semi-Final Draw

Huddersfield AtalantavDoncaster Bentleys

(The first semi-final to be played at Bradford or Wakefield; the venue for the second to be arranged)

Subsequently Ediswan scratched from the tournament, leaving Stoke with a bye into the final. In their semi-final Doncaster were the favourites; on 13th May they had won 4-2 against Hey's Brewery of Bradford, a team which had twice held the mighty Dick, Kerr side to a draw. The match took place at Wakefield on 3rd June, and went according to form, Doncaster beating Atalanta 4-0 to set up a final against Stoke Ladies.

It was intended to stage the final at Bradford, but this proved impossible due to the inability of the organisers to obtain the use of a suitable ground. The willingness of the Northern Rugby Union (it did not adopt the title of the Rugby League till later in 1922) to permit women to use their pitches was in marked contrast to the stuffy attitude of the Rugby Union itself. This was exemplified by the response of the Yorkshire Rugby Union to an application from Bradford RUFC to stage a women's football match at their Lidget Green stadium. The game was to feature the local ladies' team from Hey's Brewery against a French touring side. Mr J. Miller of Leeds opposed the application, saying that football, like lacrosse and hockey, was not suitable for women, and when they tried to play it they made a ridiculous exhibition of themselves. He was supported by the Rev. Huggard of Barnsley who in a sanctimonious speech said, "they respected, and loved their women, and therefore ought not to encourage them to do anything derogatory to their position, or anything that would be unseemly." The application was refused.8 In consequence the ELFA Ladies' Cup final was staged at Cobridge, on 24th June 1922. Stoke made an unexpected change to their line-up for the final; the fearsome Lily Brindley was switched from her normal role as goalkeeper to take up the centre-forward position, possibly with the intent of intimidating the Doncaster defenders. The position of goalkeeper was taken by Gladys Mountford, a lady with some experience in this role, having played for Milton Ladies in wartime matches.

Stoke: Gladys Mountford, E. Smith, Lizzie Carroll, Hilda Durber, Dolly Cooper (capt.), Lily Bridgett, Tilly Wagg, Daisy Bates, Lily Brindley, Elsie Stanyer, Eva Bridgett

Doncaster: Ivy Molton, Annie Woodward, Flo Benstall, Eva Stevenson, Alice Warren, Mary Bull, Lucy Bromage, Maggie Murphy, Emma Smith, Lily Marshall, Maria Bull

Heavy rain fell on the day of the match, which no doubt contributed to the poor attendance of only 2,000 spectators. The team reshuffle did not appear to give Stoke any advantage, as Doncaster took up the attack from the start, and after only five minutes they had secured a penalty, which Emma Smith converted. Stoke rallied, and before the interval they scored twice with excellent shots from Daisy Bates and Elsie Stanyer. In the second half both teams seemed to struggle with the heavy going, with Stoke managed to increase their lead through a penalty which was taken by Dolly Cooper. Len Bridgett's team had won Len Bridgett's trophy, no doubt to the delight of the man himself.

Stoke Ladies FC with ELFA cup

Stoke Ladies with the ELFA Cup
back row: Mrs. Amelia Bridgett, Lizzie Smith, Dolly Cooper, Lily Brindley, Lizzie Carroll, Gladys Bridgett, Len Bridgett
centre row: Hilda Durber, unknown, Daisy Bates, Elsie Stanier, Ida Bridgett
front row: Tilly Wagg, Eva Bridgett
(photograph courtesy of Jayne Bridgett)

ELFA cup winners medal

Winner's medal awarded to Ada Derricot
(photograph courtesy of Ada Rigby)

The ELFA Cup is still in existence, and I am grateful to the present guardians for the opportunity to publish the following pictures of it. The Cup, which is silver, and topped with the figure of a woman footballer, stands on a black hardwood base on the front of which is mounted a glazed pottery plaque depicting a group of female footballers. Around the base are a number of silver shields, only one of which is engraved with the name of a winning team - Stoke Ladies FC 1922.

ELFA cup

The ELFA Cup
The inscription reads "English Ladies' Football Association : Presented by L. Bridgett : President : Stoke-on-Trent"

ELFA cup figurine  ELFA cup plaque  ELFA cup shield

Details from ELFA Cup

Another tournament, the Bradford Charity Shield, was organised during the course of the season, though it is not known whether this was officially sponsored by the ELFA. Six clubs, all from Yorkshire, are known to have taken part - Huddersfield (Ladies, Atalanta and Alexandra), Keighley, Doncaster and Hey's. Doncaster and Atalanta are thought to have received byes in the first round, which saw Hey's defeat Huddersfield Alexandra 4-1 and Huddersfield Ladies defeat Keighley 6-1, both matches taking place on 6th May. The organisers appear to have experienced some frustrations in arranging the next round, which eventually was staged on 17th May. To the disappointment of the citizens of Huddersfield, who had just seen their football league side win the FA Cup, both of their teams went out of the competition. Huddersfield Ladies lost 5-1 at home to Doncaster, and Atalanta suffered a 4-0 defeat at the Greenfield Stadium in Bradford. This left Hey's and Doncaster Ladies to fight it out in the final, which took place at Bradford on 27th May. Hey's avenged an earlier defeat at the hands of Doncaster, and secured the trophy with an emphatic 4-0 win.

In June 1922 an attempt was made to place the ELFA on a more commercial footing, a necessary step if it were indeed to become a female equivalent to the Football Association, regulating the women's game throughout the country. A company named the "English Ladies' Football Association Limited" was formed in June, its primary object being "To acquire and take over as a going concern the assets, contracts and liabilities of the Unregistered Association or Club now known as The English Ladies Football Association." The Directors of the company were as follows:

  1. Leonard Bridgett, Garage Proprietor of Bridge House, Trent Vale, Stoke on Trent,
  2. Thomas Ballham, no occupation of 218 London Road, Stoke on Trent
  3. Charles Henry Mitchell, Garage Proprietor of 12 East Parade, Huddersfield
  4. Harry Longworth, Clerk of 35 Victoria Street, Fleetwood
  5. George Thomas Smith, Licensed Victualler of The Dolphin Hotel, Cobridge Road, Cobridge

There was some delay in formally registering the company, which did not take place until 27th October 1922, by which time Charles Mitchell's name had been replaced by that of Archie Wooding, a salesman of 13 Croft Street, Newcastle under Lyme. Subsequent to this the company filed no annual accounts, nor documents relating to the proposed takeover, and it appears to have remained nothing more than a shell. On 22nd December 1931 a notice appeared in the London Gazette to the effect that it had been struck off the Register of Companies and formally dissolved.

The English Ladies' Football Association was almost certainly doomed from the start; there was no movement towards professionalism within the women's game, and without this, there was never a need for the sort of rigid structures which had evolved within the F.A. and its affiliated leagues.

As to the first ELFA cup-winners, they continued to play the occasional game, and in September 1923 travelled to Barcelona to play two games against a French XI, both of which they won. The team for this trip comprised Lily Bridgett, E. Spooner, T. Cooper, Dollie Cooper (capt.), Ida Bridgett, Lizzie Carroll, Tilly Wagg, Ada Derricot, Daisy Bates, Elsie Stanier and Eva Bridgett. They returned from this successful European venture to a showdown with the mighty Dick, Kerr side. The game took place at Colne cricket ground on 22nd September 1923, and in a thrilling encounter before 6,000 spectators Stoke inflicted a rare defeat upon the Preston women through a single goal from Daisy Bates. This appears to have been their last match; Arthur Bridgett had taken on new responsibilities at Port Vale which demanded more of his time, and his brother Len, the driving force behind the ELFA, had been elected to the town council, and had probably decided that his contribution to women's football in an increasingly hostile climate had run its course.

© Patrick Brennan 2007


1. "Belles of the Ball" by David J Williamson; published by R & D Associates 1991, ISBN 0-9517512-0-4

2. "In A League Of Their Own"' - history of the Dick, Kerr Ladies' Football Team by Gail J. Newsham; published by Scarlet Press 1997, ISBN 1857270290

3. Daily Chronicle, Newcastle, 25th August 1921

4. Daily Chronicle, Newcastle, 6th December 1921

5. Daily Herald, 6th December 1921

6. Letter dated 7th June 1918 from Alfred Frankland to Tom Williams, secretary of Whitehaven Ladies' FC

7. Tom Holding, private communication

8. Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 14th March 1922

Summary of matches played

This is a list of 40 women's games I have uncovered so far in 1922 newspaper reports.
Many feature ELFA member clubs, though not all of them were under the auspices of the Association.

1922-01-07Dick Kerr 1
Hey's Brewery 1
Played at Belle Vue, Wakefield (Wakefield Trinity Rugby ground) before 3,000 spectators, raising £200 for the Clayton Hospital.
scorers: Florrie Redford for Dick Kerr; E. Jackson for Hey's.
'Tiny' Emmerson, outside-left for Hey's was carried off midway through the second half.
1922-01-07Reading Ladies 2
Ediswan Ladies 1
Played at Reading before 2,000 spectators in aid of the Royal Berkshire Hospital
1922-01-21East Ham Ladies 1
Ediswan Ladies 1
Played at the Kent County Cricket ground, Tunbridge Wells, in aid of the local Ear Nose and Throat Hospital.
scorers:Sinclair for East Ham; Laird for Ediswan.
1922-01-28Stoke Ladies 8
Chell Ladies 2
Played at Tunstall Park before 2,000 spectators in aid of the North Staffordshire Infirmary.
Stoke: Lily Bridgett, Hilda Eldershaw, Lizzie Smith, Hilda Durbar, Dolly Cooper, May Proctor, Tilly May, Lizzie Carroll, Daisy Bates, Elsie Stanyer, Eva Bridgett
Chell: Mary Leese, Florrie Leese (capt.), Winnie Caton, Nellie Hancock, Mary Haywood, Marie Vickers, Polly Hancock, Lily Foster, Gladys Trueman, Hannah Titley, Hilda Chadwick, Hetty Shufflebotham (res)
1922-02-11Newcastle Ladies 1
Smallthorne Ladies 2
Played at Newcastle-under-Lyme
1922-02-18Hey's Brewery 4
Dick, Kerr 4
Played at Bradford.
Lucy Bromage of Doncaster Ladies appeared for Hey's and scored one of the goals.
1922-03-04Stoke Ladies 10
Newcastle Ladies 0
ELFA Cup 1st round, played at Cobridge.
scorers: Bates (7), Stanyer, Wagg, Cooper
Stoke: Lily Brindley, Minnie Bellfield, Lizzie Smith, Hilda Durber, Dolly Cooper, Lizzie Carroll, Tilly Wagg, Daisy Bates, May Procter, Elsie Stanyer, Eva Bridgett
1922-03-11Chell 1
Smallthorne 0
ELFA Cup 1st round, played at Cobridge.
scorer: Gladys Trueman
Chell: M. Leese, F. Leese, E. Pegg, L. Page, E. Shufflebotham, M. Vickers, P. Hancock, L. Jones, G. Trueman, W. Caton, L. Foster
Smallthorne: Dale, L. Burgess, L. Bailey, M. Walsh, M. Burgess, G. Chapman, S. Wilson, A. Jones, M. Lowe, L. Latham, R. Marland
1922-03-11Atalanta 2
Huddersfield Ladies 1
ELFA Cup 1st round, played at the Moor End ground, Huddersfield.
scorers: Edgley, Waller for Atalanta; Cocker for Huddersfield
Huddersfield: Sutcliffe, I. Dyson, M. Brook, G. Lockwood, L. Mitchell, R. Mitchell, Cartwright, Cocker, A. Copley, E. Brook, Travis
Atalanta: H. Broadhead, E. Wilson, L. Barraclough, W. Baldick, E. Whitwam, A. Stanley, M. Taylor, O. Walker, K. Edgley, N. Quinn, C. Waller
1922-03-11Ediswan 3
Osram 1
ELFA Cup 1st round, played at Bury Street, Enfield.
scorers: Laird (2, 1 pen), Egan for Ediswan; Watts for Osram
1922-03-11Dunlop 0
Roberts Ltd 1
Played at the Dunlop Company sports ground (Fort Dunlop, Erdington?)
1922-03-18Doncaster & Bentley Ladies 7
Grimsby & District Ladies 1
ELFA Cup 1st round, played at Bentley before 1,000 spectators.
scorers: Mary Bull, Maggie Murphy (2), Lily Marshall (4), for Bentley; E. Skoyles for Grimsby
Doncaster & Bentley: Ivy Molton, E. Harrison, M.E. Andrews, G. Bunting, Alice Warren, E. L. Wood, Maria Bull, Lily Marshall, Maggie Murphy, Mary Bull, Lucy Bromage
Grimsby: F. Calvert, S. Bedford, B. Skoyles, N. Smith, E. Kennington, A. Agar, F. Shelton, E. Watson, E. Skoyles, E. Hutton, F. Guymer
1922-03-18Dunlop 0
Roberts Ltd 1
Played at the Dunlop Company sports ground (Fort Dunlop, Erdington?)
1922-03-18Osram Ladies 1
Ediswan Ladies 2
Played at Shepherds Bush
scorers: Dora Shipley, Nelly Wright for Ediswan.
1922-03-22Dick Kerr 3
Olympique de Paris 0
Played at Cardiff before 15,000 spectators, raising £655 for charity.
scorers: Jeannie Harris (2), Florrie Redford (pen)
1922-03-25Plymouth 2
Marazion 1
ELFA Cup 1st round, played at Randwick Park, Oreston, Plymouth.
scorers: L. Rawlings, G. Harris (in extra time) for Plymouth; M. Trudgen for Marazion.
1922-03-25Rochdale v
Mersey Amazons
ELFA Cup 1st round,scheduled to be played at One Ash, Rochdale, the home ground of Bright's FC. The game was cancelled, reason unknown, causing a loss of £20 to the promoters, and resulting in a proposed match against the French tourists to be dropped.
1922-03-25Dick, Kerr 4
Olympique de Paris 0
Played at Ashton Park, Preston before 3,000 spectators, raising £111 for charity.
scorers: Lily Parr (3), Jeannie Harris
Dick Kerr: Mason, Kell, Lee, Walmsley, Woods, Clayton, Haslam , Harris, Redford, Mills, Parr
Olympique: Mlle G. Lalor, Mme Gourard-Morris, Mlles Duman, Burat, Guery, Renaud-Kubuch, T. H. Lalor, S. Guery, M. Lalor, Bigot
1922-03-27Dick Kerr 4
Olympique de Paris 0
Played at the Stanley Athletic grounds, Liverpool before 2,000 spectators in aid of the Rheims Cathedral Rebuilding Fund and the Liverpool Child Welfare Association's Milk Supply Fund.
scorers: Redford (3), Mills
1922-03-28Hey's 2
Olympique de Paris 0
Played at the Greenfield Athletic Ground, Bradford before 3,000 spectators in aid of the Rheims Cathedral Restoration Fund and the Bradford Hospital Fund.
scorers: Emmerson, Whelan (pen)
1922-04-05British XI 2
French XI 1
Played at Plymouth. The British XI comprised 8 players from Plymouth, augmented by players from Fleetwood, St Helens and Swansea.
The French team was sponsored by the Fédération des Societies Sportives Féminines de France (FSFSF) and comprised the following players: Goal: Lévêque (Sportives); Backs: Janiaud (Fémina), Guille (Sportives); Half-backs: Rillac (Sportives), Pomiès (Fémina), Gisclard (Sportives); Forwards: Contesse (AS Amicale), Bracquemond (Sportives, capt), Baldracchi (Fémina), Puisais (Sportives), Goinard (Fémina); Reserves : Chapoteau (Fémina), Darreau G (Fémina), Darreau A (Fémina).
1922-04-06British XI 0
French XI 0
Played at the County Grounds, Exeter, before 3,000 spectators.
1922-04-08Cornish Ladies XI 0
French Ladies XI 0
Played at the Recreation Ground, Falmouth, before 1,500 spectators.
(The French Ladies XI are assumed to be the FSFSF team.)
1922-04-01Stoke United 2
Huddersfield Alexandra 1
ELFA Cup 1st round, played at the old Port Vale ground, Cobridge.
scorers: M. Hopton for Huddersfield, A. N. Other for Stoke
Stoke: L. Bridgett, M. Ryles, Goodwin, Kent, Belfield, Owen, Cooper, Derricot, Proctor, Lindop, ?
Huddersfield: Walker, M. Woodhead, N. Wilkinson, M. Hopton, ?, D. Wood, L. Woodhead, ?, B. Wood, Hodkin, G. Woodhead
1922-04-14Atalanta 2
Hey's Ladies 4
Played at Cowlersley, Huddersfield.
scorers for Atalanta: Walker, o.g.
1922-04-15Stoke Ladies 6
Stoke United 0
ELFA Cup 2nd round played at the old Port Vale ground, Cobridge.
Stoke Ladies: L. Brindley, L. Bridgett, L. Smith, H. Durber, D. Cooper, Ida Bridgett, M. Wagg, L. Carroll, D. Bates, E. Stanier, Eva Bridgett
Stoke United (from): Mountford, B. Smith, Good, Dent, Proctor, Ryles, Cooper, Barlow, Deakin, Lindon, Owen, Hill, Lockett
1922-04-17Stoke Ladies 3
Birmingham Ladies 1
Played at the old Port Vale ground, Cobridge.
scorers: Wagg, Bates, Derricot for Stoke; B. Markham for Birmingham
Stoke: L. Brindley, M. Procter, L. Smith, D. Carroll, D Cooper, E. Ryles, E. Wagg, M. Derricot, D. Bates, M. Stanyer, E. Bridgett
Birmingham: M. Prinold, Cherry, Waif, B. Markham, Byram, Meddings, Morrison, Lunn, Robinson, L. Markham, Gould
1922-04-18Stoke Ladies 2
Huddersfield Ladies 0
Played at the old Port Vale ground, Cobridge.
scorers: Wagg (2), Bates (2), Carroll
Stoke: L. Brindley, L. Carroll, L. Smith, H. Durber, D. Cooper, I. Bridgett, L. Bridgett, T. Wagg, D. Bates, E. Carroll, E. Bridgett
Huddersfield: H. Sutcliffe, E. Lunn, M. Brook, H. Hoyle, R. Mitchell, E. Brook, I. Dyson, A. Cooker, L. Mitchell, E. Allen, A. Copler
1922-04-22Doncaster & Bentley Ladies 20
Lincoln Ladies 0
ELFA Cup 2nd round, played at Bentley.
scorers: Emma Smith (11)
Doncaster & Bentley: I. Molton, E. Harrison, A. Woodward, A. Warren, E. Stevenson, Mary Bull, L. Bromage, M. Murphy, E. Smith, Lily Marshall, Maria Bull
Lincoln: E Bower, H. Cox, L. Morton, J. Porter, E. Dryson, A. Bell, E. Baldwin, H. Stewart, T. Wharfe, M. Harrison, A. Wentworth
1922-04-22Atalanta 2
Chell 1
ELFA Cup 2nd round, played at Cowlersley, Huddersfield.
scorers for Atalanta: Olive Walker, Quinn
1922-05-06Huddersfield Ladies 6
Keighley 1
Bradford Shield first round, played at the Moor End ground, Lockwood, Huddersfield.
1922-05-06Hey's 4
Huddersfield Alexandra 1
Bradford Shield first round, played at Bradford.
1922-05-13Doncaster & Bentley 4
Hey's 2
Played at Bentley before 7-800 spectators.
scorers: Maria Bull, Lucy Bromage, Maggie Murphy, Alice Smith (pen) for Doncaster
1922-05-17Hey's 4
Atalanta 0
Bradford Shield semi final, played at the Greenfield ground, Bradford (this former football ground was a trotting and athletics track at this time)
1922-05-17Huddersfield Ladies 1
Doncaster Ladies 5
Bradford Shield semi final, played at the Moor End ground, Lockwood, Huddersfield
1922-05-18Hey's v
Jockeys XI
Women v Men match played at Belle Vue, Doncaster before 3,000 spectators.
1922-05-20Manchester 2
Doncaster & Bentley 3
ELFA Cup 3rd round, played at Manchester
scorers for Doncaster & Bentley: Maria Bull, Maggie Murphy, Lily Marshall
1922-05-27Hey's Ladies 4
Doncaster Ladies 0
Bradford Shield final, played at Bradford.
1922-06-03Doncaster & Bentley 4
Atalanta 0
ELFA Cup semi-final, played at Wakefield
scorers: Maggie Murphy, Emma Smith, Lucy Bromage, Lily Smith
1922-06-24Stoke 3
Doncaster & Bentley 1
ELFA Cup Final, played before 2,000 spectators at Cobridge.
scorers: Bates, Stanyer, Cooper (pen) for Stoke; E. Smith (pen) for Doncaster
Stoke: Gladys Mountford, E. Smith, Lizzie Carroll, Hilda Durber, Dollie Cooper(capt.), Lily Bridgett, Tilly Wagg, Daisy Bates, Lily Brindley, Elsie Stanyer, Eva Bridgett
Doncaster: Ivy Molton, Annie Woodward, Flo Benstall, Eva Stevenson, Alice Warren, Mary Bull, Lucy Bromage, Maggie Murphy, Emma Smith, Lily Marshall, Maria Bull

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