100 years ago, women’s soccer was banned in Canada. An apology – and a celebration of the game’s early pioneers – is long overdue

Canada’s top soccer governing body, Canada Soccer, owes its trailblazers a full apology. One hundred years ago, on September 5, 1922, a council of the Dominion of Canada Football Association (DCFA) — the pre-1952 name of Canada Soccer — voted to outlaw women’s “soccer,” as football was then known. soccer.

This little-known decision had very negative long-term consequences for the development of women’s football here. This was prompted by an offer from the famous English team Dick, Kerr Ladies FC, who then traveled to Quebec for a tour of Canada and the United States. According to key Kerr Ladies team historian Gail Newsham, the team had received an initial positive response to their offer to tour from the DCFA of Canada and a commitment to stage matchups against Canadian women’s teams.

However, at an annual meeting of the DCFA Council, a motion was passed “opposing women playing football” and “not allowing any club to play against the women’s football team, which offers a tour in America,” as reported by the London Free Press. September 6, 1922.

This decision was made by the all-male leadership of the sole governing body of football in this country. He followed the imperial example of the Football Association of England, which had just banned the popular women’s football scene from that country in December 1921. While soccer in Canada was less developed at the time — the women’s soccer was just getting started — the DCFA’s effective ban on women’s soccer was very damaging. This reinforced sexist ideas about women’s bodies and the idea that certain sports should remain exclusive to men.

It should be noted that at least some working class women were already playing soccer in Canada at this time. There are newspaper reports of female factory workers playing a well-attended game at “Empire Day” activities in Brantford, Ontario. in 1918. There are also reports of women’s matches in the Alberta mining communities of Hillcrest and Blairmore in August 1922—just weeks before the September 5 vote.

According to Newsham’s summary of the minutes of the DCFA meeting, Ontario council member William Dean came out aggressively against women’s soccer ahead of the vote: “Mr. Dean quoted a example of women’s football having been played in Hamilton. He said the first two games played were fine, but after that people became completely against it. He considered it a shame to be allowed. He thought such games should not be allowed.

Dean’s ridicule reflected the mainstream view of the association, even acknowledging that women were playing games in Hamilton. It seems certain that women also played soccer in many other communities. Scattered reports as early as 1917 (in Kingston) and 1922 (in St. Catharines) announced plans to establish women’s leagues. The DCFA’s vote to ‘oppose’ women’s football ended these nascent efforts.

As in England, the impact of the DCFA ban on women’s football was lasting. The only organized authority for football in this country, dedicated to “building the game”, had officially declared that the game it was building was not for women. It was not until 1971 that the English FA lifted its ban. In Canada, aside from a small number of courageous players, coaches and organizers, women’s soccer in Canada did not develop as a grassroots sport until the 1970s.

It is now clear that the objections to women playing football were absurd. And yet, many of the men responsible for that shameful decision — including Ontarian William Dean — continue to be honored by soccer organizations as “builders” of the sport.

At a minimum, Canada Soccer should officially apologize for the 1922 ban on women’s soccer. Another fitting step would be to find ways to celebrate the game’s early female pioneers – starting with the fine work of sports historian M. Ann Hall. After 100 years, it’s time for a small measure of justice.

Kevin Skerrett is a labor researcher and assistant research professor at the Institute of Political Economy at Carleton University.

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