GOAL POWER! – Six Influential Women Footballers from Brighton
The UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 is in full swing and with the spotlight celebrating amazing women in football, the team at VisitBrighton have teamed up with Brighton Museum’s new Goal Power! Women’s Football 1894-2022 exhibition to shine a light on six amazing female footballers from Brighton and Hove
From the first black and female manager of any England national team and first-ever woman on the FA Council, to the CEO of the first football club to offer equal pay between its male and female teams and the earliest woman to be sent off for swearing during a match, these women truly are pioneers for football across the world.
Here are just six influential women from Brighton and Hove who have helped pave the way of women’s football to where it is today.
A footballing Rooney with a pocketful of red cards
Georgia was one of the many women inspired by the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, which produced record-breaking viewing figures for female football.
She decided to throw herself into the unknown and join a referee course. However, upon arrival she discovered she was in the minority as she was the only woman on the course! Georgia said being “the only girl” was intimidating at first, and it is still rare to see female officials on the pitch.
Through following her passion for football and pushing her limits she has now refereed both men’s and women’s games, developing a strong resilience to difficult situations and bullet proof confidence in her decision making.
Georgia’s story is inspiring for other women looking to get into the game of football or refereeing despite the hurdle of being in a minority and has shown that the only limits are one’s you set for yourself. She is now working as a referee developer and is actively pushing to ensure more women can have such a key role in football.
The CEO of the first football club in the world to offer equal pay between its male and female teams
Maggie Murphy, the Chief Executive of Lewes FC, has been a passionate football player since she was a young girl but always felt football was just something for the weekend. Having previously worked in anti-corruption, human rights and governance, she became angry that the governance of football was corrupt and that it only really seemed to care about money.
Maggie used her experience and teamed up with a group of other women to set up the charity Equal Playing Field. They began setting world records to raise awareness of equality and respect for women and girls across the world. Maggie describes it as a sort of ‘physical manifestation of the frustrations they were feeling’.
This led her to being approached to become General Manager of Lewes FC women’s team; a club she believed in due to its Equality FC campaign and community ownership. Their principles and values really lead everything they try and do.
The first black and the first female manager of any England national team, now Women’s First Team Manager for Brighton & Hove Albion
Hope is the current coach of the Brighton & Hove Albion Women’s team. She was appointed as the first-ever full-time National Coach of the England Women’s team and was both the youngest ever England coach and the first female England coach. In 2003. Powell became the first woman to achieve the UEFA Pro Licence—the highest coaching award available.
Hope has been instrumental in women’s football, especially the England team, to make it a professional setup. People quite often said: ‘Oh, Hope is coaching to give something back,’” but she says “It was nothing to do with that. I wanted to get paid in the game, I wanted to stay in the game, and I thought coaching was a way to do it”.
A Whitehawk-born England player who became the first-ever woman on the FA Council
From humble beginnings playing football in the streets of Whitehawk, Julie was spotted for the Brighton GPO (General Post Office) women’s team at the young age of 14 where she then continued to play for 32 years!
In her role as Assistant Community Development officer at Brighton & Hove Albion, Julie was heavily instrumental in the team, which then went on to become the first official Brighton & Hove Albion Women’s team with Julie as their player-coach.
On top of this, Julie played professionally in Sweden and managed a semi-professional women’s team in the United States. She also captained England and became assistant manager of the national team. Alongside managing Brighton & Hove Albion and coaching England, in the mid-90s became the first woman appointed to the FA Council, receiving a standing ovation from her fellow council members at her first meeting!
She has seen huge progression in the women’s game throughout the year, pioneering much of it herself. Acknowledging that changes have been slow, she says “Slow’s good because you get it right.”
The first woman to be sent off for swearing during a match
In her youth, Eileen found girl’s playground games painfully boring and felt much more at home playing football with the boys at primary school.
Not long after in 1967, she was invited as a teenager to join one of the first Brighton women’s teams, the Brighton GPO (General Post Office) team, where she played charity matches against men’s teams until the first women’s league was formed. Eileen only became aware the FA had banned women’s football when it was hard for the team to find unaffiliated pitches to train and play on, or any referees for matches.
Playing as a goalie in 1971 aged 20, Elieen became the first woman footballer to be sent of for swearing at a referee. With the score nil-nil and only five minutes to go, Eileen fielded the ball near the byline and the referee awarded a corner to the other side. “The ball didn’t go over the bloody line, Ref!” protested Eileen, and her legacy was cemented.
Commenting on her time in football, Eileen said: “When I was a young girl, I’d be dreaming of being a footballer, but I’d be putting myself in one of the men’s teams. I’m in the cup final at Wembley and I’m playing for Tottenham upfront and I’m going to score the winning goal. Real dreams that little girls can have now and fulfil, whereas for me it was never going to be anything except a dream. It didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t fair.”
Founder volunteer of the Women’s Football Association
June was a telephonist at Brighton General Post Office in 1966 and played for the netball team. Challenged to a game of football by the postmen, the women decided to set up their own work football team, and the Brighton GPO (General Post Office) team was born.
In 1969, Brighton GPO was a founding member of the Women’s Football Association (WFA), along with 44 other clubs. There was no celebration when the FA lifted their 50-year ban on women playing football, just a sense of ‘right, let’s get on with it’.
The WFA was a national governing body, run entirely by volunteers. Most of them, like June, also worked full time. It offered a structure for women’s football, and set up England women’s squad trials, a national cup competition and a women’s coaching course.
June held various positions in the association from 1971 until 1991, including Vice-Chairman and International Officer, helping to run the England team between 1982 and 1991. The WFA eventually became part of the Football Association in 1993.