FIFA to fund research into history of women's football in Scotland

There are moments in time such as Archie Gemmill scoring in Mendoza, or James McFadden blasting past Mickaël Landreau from 40 yards that will forever be remembered by Scottish football fans.

Indeed, step into the Scottish Football Museum and you can see memorabilia from the glory days of Scottish men’s football.

Now a new ground-breaking study will ensure the women’s game and the history of the sport in Scotland will also live long in the memory for generations to come.

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Sports historian Dr Fiona Skillen, of Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), has secured a prestigious FIFA research scholarship to chart the early history of the game in the country and look at those who laid the foundations to ensure the success that women’s football is rightfully enjoying in 2022.

Fiona Skillen, a sports historian at Glasgow Caledonian University, has scored a research grant from Fifa to chart the early history of the game.

Provided by the world game's governing body, through the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES), the award will fund the first in-depth study of the origins of the women's game, from the 1880s to 1939.

Dr Skillen will travel to the FIFA Museum and Archives, in Zurich, Switzerland, to examine minute books, correspondence and records relating to women's football in Scotland and the Scottish FA, as part of the project.

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The study will look at the barriers and restrictions faced by the early female players, the role of the First World War, and the impact of the English FA's 1921 'ban' on organised matches.

L-R Rose Reilly, Vivienne McLaren SWF, Eddi Reader launch the Rutherglen Ladies F.C exhibition at the Scottish Football Museum. Photo credit: Peter Devlin

In the winter of 1921, the English FA cited “the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged”, which led to a formal ban on women playing the game on Football League grounds.

Although the ban was not implemented in Scotland until the 1940s, the impact of the English ban still had a lasting impact on the game north of the border, with many women’s teams folding and others being forced to go on tours around England, Scotland and Ireland in pursuit of a game.

The newly-funded study will look to tell the story of the women, such as the trailblazing Rutherglen Ladies FC, who defied the odds and helped the women’s game flourish.

Speaking on the award, Dr Skillen said: "There have been no detailed studies of the early history of women’s football in Scotland.

"This award from FIFA/CIES is recognition of how important the history of the game is.

“Insights from the past can help us to understand and shape the development of the contemporary women’s game."

The latest award will build on a pilot study carried out last year, funded by the GCU Research Reboot fund.

Richard McBrearty, of the Scottish Football Museum, said: "We are delighted that Fiona has an opportunity to undertake this ground-breaking research into the history of women’s football in Scotland.

"This will hugely benefit our knowledge of the game’s past and comes at a great time as we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first official match involving the Scotland women’s national team later this year."

The Scottish Football Museum is hosting an exhibition on the hidden history of the trailblazing inter-war side Rutherglen Ladies FC, based on research carried out by Dr Skillen and the football historian Steve Bolton.​

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