Wednesday, February 13, 2008

FA Apologizes for its Sexism and Homophobia? Really?

This past weekend, fans of the women's game gathered in Regents Park to honor Lily Parr, the first woman inducted to the National Football Museum Hall of Fame. Parr was an amazing character, from an incredible time in the history of women's football in the U.K. Renown for her athleticism and skill, she was a celebrity in the late teens and twenties, and was directly impacted by the 1921 FA ban that barred women from FA pitches and forbid FA members from refereeing or working as linesmen during women's games.

The Guardian reported on an FA statement issued over the weekend in relation to the Parr Trophy match - which was not, as far as I can tell, sponsored by the FA in any way. The newspaper story, "FA Apologies for 1921 Ban", offers no direct quotes from an FA statement, raising the question: Was it really an apology?

The Lily Parr Exhibition Trophy Match
was part of Gay & Lesbian History Month - it was played between the London Lesbian Kickabouts and Arc-En-Ciel, a Parisian lesbian football team - recreating in spirit the first international women's game played between England and France. The fact that this celebration of Parr was a part of Lesbian & Gay History month - and that the two teams which played are lesbian feminist teams was not mentioned in Tony Leighton's telegraphic story (was anyone from The Guardian's staff there?). I suppose we should be grateful there was any mention of that match, of Lily Parr, and of the rest of action in the women's game this week in the four paragraph story. But is it really journalism if it's reporting final scores, and recycling press releases?

The Kickabouts posted the following on their website:

"Lucy Faulkner, Equality Manager at The Football Association said 'In 1921 The FA requested that clubs belonging to the Association should refuse the use of their grounds for matches played by women with the purpose of raising charitable funds. Furthermore, they stated that 'the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged'.

The damage this did to the women's game is hard to calculate but I am confident that with the support and investment of The FA in women's football in 2008, the sport will continue to go from strength to strength.'" There's another statement on the Kickabout site from Trevor Brooking, director of development at the FA about the growing strength of the women's game.

The Kickabouts quite rightly list this not as an "apology", but as a "response". A response from the Equality Manager is not an apology from the FA Board.

Maybe something went down at that game that has yet to surface in the blogs, like:

"FA Board members attend LGBT celebration of legendary athlete Lily Parr, and apologize for the sexism and homophobia that continue to dominate football culture. Vow to change their own attitudes, to give the FA's full support to its women players - and kick homophobia out of the men's game while they are at it."

ps: For more about Parr, see Barbara Jacobs's book, The Dick, Kerr Ladies.


  1. If the FA put anything on their web site, it's disappeared pretty quickly. Which somehow doesn't surprise me. The Grauniad was also somewhat coy in its description of the commemorative match, so I'll link to your story rather than theirs when I write something up for my women's team's site.
    Neville Wardle
    Coach, Valley Fire WFC

  2. Update: I got in touch with the organisers of the tournament and, to make a long story short, there will be an American presence at the 2009 Lily Parr tournament. I suppose for historical accuracy it should be a men's team, but for practical purposes it will be composed of Valley Fire and guests to make a three-way English, French and American kickabout.
    Details at

  3. Neville,

    That's fantastic! I wish I was going to be in London to cheer for you guys!



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