FOR most people in England, women’s football is a new phenomenon inspired by the exploits of the English women’s senior team in the last two World Cups.

For some, it is just watching a game casually on TV. For others, like the ladies of Saltdean United Women FC, it is part of their daily lives.

The women’s game is growing, but is it growing at the rate it should be and does it actually have the support it needs to progress?

In last year’s World Cup semi-final defeat to USA, the women’s team attracted a record 11.7 million viewers on BBC One, making it the most watched British television programme of the year.

The USA, which went on to win the final had approximately 14.3 million viewers in the USA for the final, compared to 11.4 million for the 2018 Men’s World Cup final.

They had these figures despite the fact they had to compete with the men’s Concacaf Gold Cup Final and the men’s Copa America final.

It would make sense the Women’s World Cup final would have a day to stand on its own and be appreciated just like the men’s final.

This does not seem to be the case when the people in charge belittle the female game by scheduling male tournaments on the same day.

Most people believe women’s football is something entirely new and it will take time for it to grow. But what is the history of the game in England?

Women’s football grew as quick as the men’s game in the early 20th century and reached new heights during the First World War.

In 1895, the British Ladies’ Football Club was founded by Nettie J Honeyball. The club arranged matches between teams representing the north and south of England.

The matches attracted good crowds, often thousands of people went to watch these fixtures.

In a time when women were not allowed to vote, it was difficult to maintain the high level of interest, especially with newspapers not supporting the game.

The outbreak of the First World War saw an increase in women taking up factory jobs.

Much like the men in factories, women began playing informal football games during their break times.

On Christmas Day 1917, 10,000 people watched Preston, known as Dick Kerr’s Ladies, take on Arundel Coulthard with Preston winning 4-0.

This was at a time when the women’s suffrage movement was gaining momentum. The Representation of the People Act 1918 allowed women over 30 who met property qualification to vote.

The team’s popularity grew and dispelled the suggestion that the women’s game was a novelty.

After the war ended, the female game continued to grow and by 1920 there were around 150 women’s sides in England. In the same year Preston attracted a crowd of 53,000 into Everton’s Goodison Park.

An estimated 14,000 were left outside.

In 1921 popularity of the female game was at its peak. But the FA, only concerned with the men’s game, became worried the women’s game could affect Football League attendances, so they decided to act.

On the December 5 the FA banned its members from allowing women’s football to be played at their grounds and banned its members from acting as referees or linesmen, thus killing the women’s game over night.

It seems politics and football are always associated with each other and it wasn’t until the Equal Franchise Act 1928 that women received the same voting rights as men.

This, however, did not change the FA’s stance on women’s football and for decades there was not any change.

It was not until 1971 when the ban was lifted.

It has been a slow process since.

In 2011 we saw the inaugural season of the Women’s Super League. It has been great to see the national team do so well, but the game now needs to grow in our communities.

So what is the next step? Supporting a local female team is a good start.

One example of this is supporting a local team in Brighton, the Saltdean United Women’s team.

Saltdean Ladies, also known as the Tigers, are a newly established side who were created in 2017.

They are connected to Saltdean FC and have the full backing of the club, playing in Hill Park in Saltdean.

The Tigers now compete in the London and South East Regional Women’s Premier League. The short-term aim for the club is to stay up this year and then next year promotion to the national league.

This will only be possible with the support of the people of Brighton. So why not come and be part of the Saltdean Women FC family? Become a Tiger and roar us on.