Women's football has been played for many decades, but was associated with charity games and physical exercise in the past before the breakthrough of organized women's association football came in the 1970s. Before the 1970s, football was seen as a predominately men's sport. Women's football is a prominent team sport with 176 national teams participating internationally compared with 209 men's national teams(as of 2012), and it is one of the few women's team sports with professional leagues.
The growth in women's football has seen major competitions being launched at both national and international level. (For more information, see Women's association football around the world and International competitions in women's association football respectively.) Women's football has faced many struggles throughout its fight for right. Although women's football had its first golden age in the UK in the early 1920s, when one match achieved over 50,000 spectators, this was stopped on 5 December 1921 when England's Football Association voted to ban the game from grounds used by its member clubs. The ban was not cancelled until July 1971.
In August 1917 a tournament was launched for female munition workers' teams in northeast England. Officially titled the Tyne Wear & Tees Alfred Wood Munition Girls Cup, it was popularly known as The Munitionettes' Cup. The first winners of the trophy were Blyth Spartans, who defeated Bolckow Vaughan 5–0 in a replayed final tie at Middlesbrough on 18 May 1918. The tournament ran for a second year in season 1918–19, the winners being the ladies of Palmer's shipyard in Jarrow, who defeated Christopher Brown's of Hartlepool 1–0 at St James' Park in Newcastle on 22 March 1919.
Following the Football Association ban on women's teams on 5 December 1921, the English Ladies' Football Association was formed. A silver cup was donated by the first president of the association, Len Bridgett. A total of 24 teams entered the first competition in the spring of 1922. The winners were Stoke Ladies who beat Doncaster and Bentley Ladies 3-1 on 24 June 1922.
In 1937 and 1938, the Dick, Kerr's Ladies F.C. played Edinburgh City Girls in the "Championship of Great Britain and the World". Dick Kerr won the 1937 and 38 competitions with 5-1 score lines. The 1939 competition however was a more organised affair and the Edinburgh City Girls beat Dick Kerr in Edinburgh 5-2. The City Girls followed this up with a 7-1 demolition of Glasgow Ladies Ladies in Falkirk to take the title.
After the lifting of the aforementioned ban, the now defunct Women's Football Association held its first national knockout cup in 1970–71. It was called the Mitre Trophy which became the FA Women's Cup in 1993. Southampton WFCwas the inaugural winner. From 1983 to 1994 Doncaster Belles reached ten out of 11 finals, winning six of them. Arsenal are the current holders and the most successful club with a record 11 wins.
Unofficial women's European tournaments for national teams were held in Italy in 1969 and 1979 and won by Italy and Denmark, but there was no formal international tournament until 1982 when the first UEFA European Competition For Representative Women's Teams was launched. The 1984 Finals was won by Sweden. This competition name was succeeded by the UEFA Women's Championship and today, is commonly referred to as the Women's Euro. Norway won, in the 1987 Finals. Since then, the UEFA Women's Championship has been dominated by Germany, which has won seven out of eight events, interrupted only by Norway in 1993. Germany's 2009 win was their fifth in a row.
Women's World CupEdit
Prior to the FIFA's 1991 establishment of the Women's World Cup, several unofficial world tournaments took place in the 1970s and 1980s, including the FIFA's Women's Invitation Tournament 1988, which was hosted in Taiwan.
The first Women's World Cup was held in the People's Republic of China in November 1991, and was won by the USA. The third Cup, held in the United States in June–July 1999, drew worldwide television interest and a final in front of a record-setting 90,000+ Los Angeles crowd, where the USA won 5-4 on penalty kicks against China.
The Copa Libertadores de Fútbol Femenino (Women's Libertadores Cup) is the international women's football club competition for teams that play in CONMEBOL nations. The competition started in the 2009 season in response to the increased interest in women's football. It is the only CONMEBOL club competition for women, and it is sometimes called the Copa Libertadores Femenina.
From 1996 a Women's Football Tournament has been staged at the Olympic Games; unlike in the men's Olympic Football tournament (based on teams of mostly under-23 players), the Olympic women's teams do not have restrictions due to professionalism or age. However, England and other British Home Nations are not eligible to compete as separate entities because theInternational Olympic Committee does not recognise their FIFA status as separate teams in competitions. The participation of UK men's and women's sides at the 2012 Olympic tournament was a bone of contention between the four national associations in the UK from 2005, when the Games were awarded to London, to 2009. England was strongly in favour of unified UK teams, while Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland were opposed, fearing adverse consequences for the independent status of the Home Nations within FIFA. At one stage it was reported that England alone would field teams under the UK banner (officially "Great Britain") for the 2012 Games. However, both the men's and women's Great Britain teams eventually fielded some players from the other home nations.