1971 WFA Cup Final (partially found footage of football match; 1971)

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1971wfacupfinal1.jpg

The Southampton team prior to the Final.

Status: Partially Found

The 1971 WFA Cup Final (also known as the 1971 Mitre Challenge Trophy Final) culminated the 1970-71 WFA Cup season, which was also the inaugural WFA Cup. Occurring on 9th May 1971 at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, it featured Southampton defeating Stewarton Thistle 4-1, kickstarting a dominant period for the Cup winners.

Background[edit | edit source]

Prior to the early-1970s, women's football in England was considerably held back when the Football Association (FA) banned women from playing on Football League grounds from 1921 to 1971 deeming that "the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged."[1][2][3][4] The women's game would only overcome this barrier once the voluntary Women's Football Association (WFA) was formed in 1969, with its lobbying eventually causing the FA to overturn the ban in 1971.[1][2][4][3] The FA had informed the WFA about its decision in December 1969, and with this, plus its new control over women's football, the WFA quickly set out to establish the Women's Football Association Cup or WFA Cup.[3][1] The WFA's motivations were summarised by founding member Patricia Gregory, stating "Girls had grown up following the men's FA Cup just like their brothers. Their brothers had an FA Cup, so they wanted one too. We made sure they got one."[1]

The tournament officially began on 1st November 1970, with Leicester City Supporters Club defeating Wandering Angels 8-0.[5][1][3] The 72 competing clubs were split into eight groups based on geographical grounds, with Welsh and Scottish clubs also being allowed to compete.[3][5] While the full campaign of Southampton is unknown, its road to the Final from the Quarter-Finals onwards saw it defeat White Ribbon 23-0, and then EMGALS 8-0 in the Semi-Finals.[5][3] Meanwhile, Scottish side Stewarton Thistle's campaign is fully documented, having overcome Prima Donnas, Manchester Corinthians, Thanet United, and Wanderers to reach the Final.[5][3]

Heading into the Final, Southampton was deemed the clear favourites.[3] However, the team did face accusations that it had fielded a league select side consisting of players from a Hampshire League, causing the club to be fined £25 by the WFA.[6][3] Meanwhile, Stewarton Thistle were to don new Brazil kits for the Final.[3] However, as noted by captain and player-manager Elsie Cook, the team's performance was compromised even before the match began, as many of its players had been drinking the day before.[3]

The Match[edit | edit source]

The Final itself occurred on 9th May 1971.[7] After no Football League side allowed the WFA to host the game at its grounds, the organisation eventually settled for the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, which notably hosted the men's FA Cup Final from 1895-1914.[7][3] The game's attendance is unknown, as ultimately significant portions of WFA Cup history was either undocumented or did not survive the years.[7][1][3] Nevertheless, Southampton captain Lesley Lloyd estimated that around 1,500 to 2,000 were present.[8]

Within the first 20 minutes, Southampton were leading 2-0, thanks to goals from Pat Davies.[3] She had managed to exploit a poor back pass that Thistle goalkeeper Gerry Chalmers had failed to scout, enabling Davies to score from an open net.[3] Just before half-time, Thistle's Rose Reilly pulled one back for her side, but once the second-half commenced, it would only be minutes before Dot Cassell scored Southampton's third goal thanks to a left-foot shot.[3] After Thistle's Isobel Howie was taken off the pitch after tearing her ligaments, it enabled Southampton to further control the final 20 minutes, culminating in Davies scoring the first WFA Cup Final hat-trick.[3][8]

Aside from a mention by BBC News and photos from Goal, little coverage of the game occurred.[3] Nevertheless, in an interview for the 2021 book A History of the Women's FA Cup Final, Southampton captain Lesley Lloyd stated that "Cup Final day was fantastic. For me, it felt like being at Wembley. The feeling of lifting that Cup is something I will never forget, thinking that we had actually won it, and the feeling that after all that time the FA had finally recognised that women could play football."[3][8] It would also kickstart a dominant period for Southampton, with the club successfully reach every WFA Cup Final in the 1970s, winning seven of them.[3]

Availability[edit | edit source]

While the game went untelevised, a few cameras were present at the ground.[3][1] Surviving footage was viewed by A History of the Women's FA Cup Final authors Chris Slegg and Patricia Gregory, who noted the pitch's poor quality caused primarily by the growth of long grass.[3][8] Nevertheless, they also noted that the main stand was filled to capacity.[3] Of the footage that remains, some was included in a BBC Sport documentary that featured clips including one of Davies' goals and the Southampton side lifting the trophy.[1][3]

However, this remains the extent of publicly available match clips. The A History of the Women's FA Cup Final's mention of "surviving footage" despite its extensive research into the history of the tournament also indicates much of what was captured is now missing, possibly because of the poor record-keeping of information and footage during the WFA era of women's football in England.[3][1] Nevertheless, several photos of the game have resurfaced, including within aforementioned book.[3][1][8]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

Video[edit | edit source]

BBC News video discussing the history of the Women's FA Cup and providing footage of the match.


See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]