Lily Parr Tournament

LLKA hold a semi-annual Lily Parr Tournament to celebrate women's football and remember that something we now take for granted as being able to play was not always so easy.

For more on who Lily Parr was and her part in the history of womens football see the short description below, written by LLKA founder Andi.

On 11 February 2007 in support of the UK LGBT History Month the London Lesbian Kickabouts team and the Paris team Arc en Ciel (Rainbow) re-enacted the first match between the Dick Kerr Ladies and the Paris ladies team. The London Lesbian Kickabouts won 7-3. The event was named the Lily Parr Exhibition Trophy.

Lily Parr Tournament 2007

On 9 February 2008, the 2nd Lily Parr Exhibition Trophy match took place between LLKA and Paris Arc en Ciel at the Hub in Regent's Park, London. LLKA won 4-1 with their goals being scored by Christelle Quiniou (2), Gill Rimmer and Kim Bourke. Their captain was Sib Trigg. The trophy was presented by comedienne Rhona Cameron and historian Barbara Jacobs, author of The Dick Kerr's Ladies.

Lily Parr Tournament 2008

The 2009 Exhibition Trophy took place in Regent's Park, London on 15 February 2009 and was planned to feature teams from Paris, London and the USA. The USA's involvement is to honour the 1922 Dick Kerr Ladies tour.

Lily Parr Tournament 2009

The story of Lily Parr is one of the greatest footballing stories there is. She was a five foot ten inch, working-class winger who lived with her partner, Mary, in Preston. She insisted on being provided with Woodbine cigarettes as part of her playing terms. In 2002, twenty-four years after she died, she rightfully joined the likes of Sir Stanley Matthews and Jimmy Greaves, 48 other worthies and Alan Shearer, in the National Football Hall of Fame. It's a crying shame that she didn't live to see it. It was too little, too late.

She played at Goodison Park in front of a 53,000 capacity crowd, with 14,000 spectators turned away. She played in front of thousands at St James' Park and Maine Road. Her team had to turn down 120 invitations to play in one season alone. She played in a women's team that toured France and America. In the USA they played 3-4-3 against men's teams. Not any men's teams either - not the blokes from the Rat and Parrot - the top men's team's in the country including the league winners. They played nine, lost three, drew three and won three.

At the age of fourteen, in her first season she scored forty-three goals.

At that age of sixteen, she took a penalty against an American goalkeeper and put him, as well as the ball in the back of the net. She broke his arm. On both sides of the Atlantic it was said of her that she had a harder shot than any male player in living memory. It was said of her that she would have walked into any male team, if allowed.

Three seasons later, the Directors of Newcastle United had her, her team and every other female team in the country banned by the FA.

For what reason? We'll never really know? When the chavs give us grief week in and week out at Camden, I suspect it's much the same thing. In 1921, the FA put together a very contrived and medically contested argument that football wasn't good for women. Like assembling ammunition shells, (which was what Lily Parr did for a living) was? Like carrying and sorting coal was? Like pounding poss tubs was? It's not even worth the arguing because, I suspect everyone knows this wasn't the real reason.

It was okay for women to charge around belting each other in the head with hockey and lacrosse sticks because that didn't tend to make large numbers of men feel inadequate and emasculated. How can they feel strong if we insist on not being weak?

But not the entire world of male football had the knife out for Lily Parr and the Women's game. Liverpool Football Club was incensed. Lilian Parr's team, The Dick Kerr's Ladies, had raised the modern equivalent of 870,000 for Liverpool Charities in 2 matchs alone. That was after all expenses had been deducted. The FA itself had raised not a penny for charity when droves of men were returning from the First World War, badly injured and unable to work or support their families. This was before there was a Welfare State to help them.

The ban stated that no FA affiliated club could allow a pitch that it played on to be used by women. Every football stadium, small or large, every local pitch, every decent local piece of grass on which a men's team played, was to be denied to women.

The Major of Liverpool wrote in disbelief to the FA at their proposed ban:
"I may mention that in the past and present seasons I have watched about 30 ladies' football matches between various teams and I have met the players. I have travelled with them frequently by road and rail ....On all sides I have heard nothing but praise for the good work the girls are doing and the high standard of their play. The only thing I hear from the man in the street is 'Why have the FA got the knife out for women's football?' What have the girls done except raise large sums for charity and play the game? Are their feet heavier on the turf then the men's teams?"

Barbara Jacobs says, of the Directors of Newcastle United, in her book, The Dick Kerr's Ladies "Just what was their problem? The women of the North-East were as good as the Lancashire women in supporting their men through the miner's lock-outs, putting on football matches to raise money for food. And there were some truely outstanding and keen players in the North-East, like Winnie McKenna. But the Newcastle men wouldn't back them all the way.... The North-East, despite it's similarity in industrialisation and poverty to the North-West, has always had a different attitude to it's women, a macho quality, a tendancy to downgrade and downplay."

Women have always had to contend with bogus reasoning and disingenuity, from the men in charge of the game. The founder of the Olympic Games believed the only place for women in them was to lay garlands on the victors' heads.

And the irony of it all is, that when the Dick, Kerr's ladies, who played in black and white, arrived to do their tour of the USA, the were accidentally billed throughout the states as Newcastle United Ladies.

It wasn't until 1971 that the FA overturned it's ban on women playing on FA affilliated grounds. Too late for Lily Parr to play in front of thousands again. Too late for Alfred Frankland, the manager of the first international women's team in England, who had pioneered women's football, with passion and respect and integrity. He'd died 14 years earlier.

Generations of women footballers lost a place to play, a place to shine and the chance to be remembered. Would Michael Owen have been so bloody good if he'd been confined to playing on pit heaps and uneven wasteland that nobody else wanted? How different would the women's game be now, if for the last 8 decades, the likes of Lily Parr and all of those generations lost, had been around to inspire and coach and encourage girls by example? The threat of that may be the very reason the FA banned them.

(Photo kindly provided by Gill Rimmer)