There will be a celebration of women’s football in Manchester this summer as the city-region hosts matches in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 tournament.
But as well as cheering on the continent’s finest female footballers residents will also be able to learn more about the history of the game.
A National Lottery funded project will be uncovering more of the stories of the players, teams and communities from throughout the 141-year history of women’s football.
It will be running in two places in Greater Manchester which are on the list of host towns and cities, including Manchester itself.
What will be happening in Manchester?
Manchester City Council is teaming up with the National Football Museum to put on an exhibition tracing the roots of the women‘s game from its early nineteenth-century beginnings through to the high-profile professional sport fans enjoy today.
It will celebrate the pioneering women and girls who battled for many years to pave the way for the current generation of stars.
The exhibition will be on display from June, when the city gears up to host the Euros, until December.
Alongside that, the Football Heritage Collection project will see volunteers go out into local communities to speak with people and collect their memories and stories about the game and the women involved, along with any artefacts relating to the game or the women who played it.
It’s hoped the project will help reveal even more insights into the long tradition of women‘s football in Manchester, which dates from humble origins through to the great Manchester Corinthians’ ground-breaking international tours in the 1950s right up to the present-day era with both Manchester City Women and Manchester United Women playing in the Women’s Super League (WSL) and a growing number of female clubs, teams and coaches.
Manchester is playing a significant role in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 with Old Trafford hosting the tournament-opening clash between England’s Lionesses and Austria and the Manchester City Academy Stadium also hosting a number of games.
What has been said about Manchester’s involvement?
Coun Luthfur Rahman OBE, deputy leader at Manchester City Council, said: “As a city that is synonymous with football we’re excited and proud to be playing our part in supporting the UEFA Women‘s EURO 2022 tournament.
“It provides a huge opportunity for girls and women‘s football in Manchester and for helping get more girls and women involved in physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle.
“As well as giving fans the chance to see some of the best players in the world in action on the pitch, the work we’re doing with the National Football Museum to open up and reveal more of the history of women‘s football will ensure that this fascinating, surprising, and currently little-known about heritage of the game is opened up to a wider audience, and recorded for future generations to explore, learn from, and be inspired by.”
Belinda Scarlett, women’s football curator at the National Football Museum, said: “From the Manchester Corinthians’ ground-breaking international tours in the 1950s, to being home to two WSL teams and grassroots teams like Manchester Laces, Manchester has played an important role in the history and development of the women’s game.
“The National Football Museum has been improving its representation of women’s football across its collections and exhibitions over the past few years culminating in our exhibition to celebrate the UEFA Women’s Euros 2022.
“The exhibition will be supported by an exciting range of activities and events to celebrate and capture the tournament.”
What else is happening in Greater Manchester?
Wigan borough is also taking part in the celebration of women’s football as a number of the Euros games are taking place at the Leigh Sports Village (LSV).
The heritage programme will focus on the South Lancashire Tramways Ladies’ 1915 season.
It will celebrate the world’s first women’s football club to receive company sponsorship by reliving their opening season matches with publicly-sited outdoor football tables with the playing figures modified to depict the players of the 1915 team and their opponents.
Each table will house a QR code that will provide table-players with further information about the 1915 team with the opportunity to access oral histories, recorded by trained volunteers, from relatives of the original team and from current women’s team players, captured in the lead up to the finals.
There will also be a window exhibition on local women’s football in the newly-opened archives in Leigh Town Hall and contemporary collecting events in Fan Zones on match days.
The local authority has also commissioned We Are Willow on a project named Around the Match which will include an oral history project, documentary and memorabilia that offers fresh insight into the women of football.
Coun David Molyneux, Leader of Wigan Council, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome the tournament to the borough later this year and to create a long-lasting legacy which inspires our young women and girls, through both sport and culture.
“Our heritage programme celebrates the world’s first women’s football club to receive company sponsorship, the South Lancashire Tramways Ladies, and in particular their 1915 season.
“We’re incredibly excited to be retelling their story and to be working with family members to capture and share this fantastic piece of history.”
Professor Jean Williams, who will be leading the historical research to support the programme, said: “This National Lottery funded programme is of enormous significance as the first nationally-coordinated project of its kind to firstly collect the history of women’s football in England and secondly to share that unique heritage with the widest-possible public audience.
“We are finding new artefacts and stories all the time, and are excited to share how women and girls have historically pioneered football.”