When women's football at Sincil Bank in Lincoln was reported as 'side-splitting'...
As Lincoln Ladies prepare for a season back at Sincil Bank, one author is researching the first ever women's game at the ground. Ed Grover spoke to Helena Pielichaty to find out about the controversial match in 1896...
While the media has never been so full of praise for women's football, it was a different story in the 19th century.
In a Lincolnshire Chronicle article discovered by children's writer Helena Pielichaty, a reporter told of one "side-splitting" display at Sincil Bank.
The columnist identified a "sprightly tartlet" as one of four women who could "play a little", in the game between the North and South sides of British Ladies FC, thought to be the first ever women's football club. But he declared the others "couldn't hardly kick the ball for nuts".
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The most generous opinion he could offer was that at one point, one player "managed to put the ball in the net", from "about four yards".
Mrs Pielichaty, of Collingham, explained that while the match drew 1,000 spectators – around half of today's average men's attendance at the ground – the report was typical of the time.
"British Ladies were led by Nettie Honeyball – a suffragist who wanted to prove that women weren't just ornaments," she said. "At the time they weren't supposed to do any sport because it was deemed as unseemly. The game was one of around 75 they played across the UK over 18 months, during which time men threw things at them and they were ridiculed. Some spectators even ran on the pitch and assaulted them. They were seen as nothing more than prostitutes. It was that bad."
Mrs Pielichaty, who has released a book about the development of women's football, explained in Nettie Honeyball's time newspaper reports focused on clothing more than the sport.
Players wore long-sleeved blouses, baggy trousers and heavy leather shin pads.
"It was hardly exposing and there was no skin showing, but it was seen as daring and rebellious," she said.
The sport saw a boom during the First World War after being relatively unpopular since the first games in the 1880s.
However, it was banned by the Football Association in 1921 because the body was afraid of competition to the men's game. It was then only revived in 1970.
British Ladies played in teams of eight at Sincil Bank, with the North team wearing blue and the South in red. In addition, each side had a male goalkeeper.
The Chronicle reporter described how a Mr J Hobbs was "hardly able to refuse the girls the treat of seeing him between the sticks". And he added Mr Brumpton, playing for the North, "had very little to do but look on and laugh".
Mrs Pielichaty, whose latest book is called Here Come The Girls!, visited Lincoln Central Library to find the article.
There is no Echo report of the match as every 1896 edition of the paper is missing from the library.
After using words like "damsel" and "charmer" through- out the report, the Chronicle writer offered his final thoughts.
He said: "Some expected a scientific game, forgetting that ladies are not built that way."