SPORT: Scots female footballers to be celebrated with Hampden exhibition

Singer Eddi Reader (right), whose grandmother captained Rutherglen Ladies, with former Scotland and Italy international Rose Reilly at the launch of the exhibition

By Lucy Ashton

A trailblazing women’s football team is to be celebrated in a new exhibition at Hampden Park in Glasgow..

Rutherglen Ladies FC defied a ban on women’s football in the interwar period to inspire future generations to take up the game.

The exhibition, which is at the Hampden Museum for six months from December 3, opens to the public ahead of the 100th anniversary of The FA’s ban on women’s football.

Funded by Museums Galleries Scotland, it is based on research by women’s sports historian Dr Fiona Skillen, of Glasgow Caledonian University, and football historian Steve Bolton.

During the 1920s and 1930s, both the FA and SFA deemed football to be “quite unsuitable for females” meaning the players at Rutherglen Ladies FC had to battle against the odds just to play matches. A ban was eventually imposed on December 5, 1921.

Rutherglen Ladies's football team in the 1920s
The Rutherglen Ladies’s football team in the 1920s.

The Rutherglen Ladies went on to tour Ireland, played in exhibition games in front of thousands and raised money for charity.

Dr Skillen, senior lecturer in history at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “There’s a perception that women’s football didn’t happen in Scotland between the Victorian period and the mid-1950s. This research shows that it did.  We are rewriting the history books with our discoveries.

Dumbarton women showed their mettle when Denny’s shipyard fielded this ladies’ team in the 1950s. Substantial crowd in the background here.

“Rutherglen Ladies showed incredible resolve and resilience and had to overcome significant barriers just to play the game. They deserve recognition for their unique place in history.”

Singer Eddi Reader, whose grandmother Sadie Smith captained the side, said: “I am very proud of her. I was taken aback when I found out because her footballing prowess was never mentioned.

“They got banned but they didn’t care and they continued to play. I like that punk attitude.”

Richard McBrearty, Curator of the Scottish Football Museum, added: “To host this fantastic exhibition is a real coup for the museum, we’re delighted to be open after the pandemic and we look forward to welcoming visitors to find out more about the trailblazing ladies of Rutherglen FC.

“The national stadium is now the rightful home of the Scotland Women’s National Team, and the female players of the 1920s and 30s paved the way for the progress we’ve seen since then.”


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