A dream squad of inspirational women representing over eight generations involved in women’s football opened a new exhibition in Brighton.
The Goal Power! Women’s Football 1894-2022 exhibition was unveiled at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery yesterday (Tuesday, June 14) and will be open until September 25.
Among the items on display is the Barclays FA Women’s Super League Trophy, which has been loaned to the exhibition until June 29 by The Football Association as part of the celebrations around the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 championship taking place this summer.
Special guests at the launch of the exhibition included Eileen Bourne, 71, who was the first woman to be sent off for swearing in a football match and 86-year-old June Jaycocks who was one of the earliest volunteers with The FA.
Eileen and June, who both still live in Brighton, praised the exhibition and said it brought back a lot of memories for them of their days playing for the Brighton GPO (General Post Office) team in the 1960s and 70s.
June said: “It’s absolutely wonderful. It’s overwhelming, all of the hard work that has gone into the exhibition. I can’t thank them enough.”
June admitted she had never really wanted to play football but after a postman challenged the telephonists at the post office in Brighton to play a game for charity, she never looked back.
She said: “We had to borrow boots and shirts, none of us were matching, but we managed to raise quite a bit of money.”
Further charity games were organised before the Brighton GPO women’s team was formed. June said there were a few men who were ‘set in their ways’ and were not as keen on the idea of women playing football but that didn’t hold them back
June added: “There were barriers if you like, we couldn’t use the grounds or referees but once we formed the league, it just snowballed from there.”
Eileen was also impressed with the exhibition, which includes some of her own memorabilia, and reference to her infamous swearing moment in the early 1970s.
Recalling what happened, she said: “I was playing for Brighton GPO in a six-a-side tournament where it was three points for a goal and one point for a corner. I was in goal and I picked up the ball. The referee blew his whistle and gave a corner. It was so obviously not a corner. I threw the ball on the floor and said ‘it didn’t go over the bl**dy line’.”
Eileen was sent off, the only time in her whole football-playing career she had been booked or sent off.
She added: “I still get the feeling of injustice, it still makes me angry.”
Eileen, a Brighton and Hove Albion season ticket holder, went on to play in every position and as a centre forward scored in a 8-2 victory at the Goldstone Ground in Hove.
As for women’s football today, Eileen said: “It has taken a while but I am delighted that today girls see it as something highly normal for them to do and boys will see it, too.”
Chris Lockwood, Leah Caleb and Gill Sayell of the Lost Lionesses who played in the unofficial World Cup in 1971 also joined the exhibition launch as did Kelly Simmons OBE, head of The FA.
Maggie Murphy, CEO of Lewes WFC, the first club offering equal pay to the men and women’s teams and Scotland’s real-life Gregory Girl, Rose Reilly MBE, were also invited along.
Having travelled from Scotland for the launch, Rose said the exhibition was amazing.
She added: “I’m gobsmacked at this, I’m so proud of it. I’m proud to meet the ladies that have played when I was playing, the pioneers as they call us, and I have just so much admiration for the the whole organisation. And, Brighton is beautiful, I will be back with my family.”
Rose revealed how she would go into the separate boys’ playground at primary school to play football despite being punished for doing so. She said she was later told to get her hair cut short and change her name to Ross to be able to play in a boys’ football team. At age nine, Rose was able to join a girls’ team and later she was sponsored to play football in France before being paid to play professionally for AC Milan in Italy, where she played at the famous San Siro stadium.
Rose went on to have a successful footballing career in Italy but she said she has always been a proud Scot adding: “It was a Scottish heart beating under an Italian jersey.
“In my young years it was difficult for me to play football but it never stopped me.”
The Goal Power! exhibition includes a variety of important items to commemorate the growth of the women’s sport across the world. This includes the football shirts of former England player Eni Aluko and a shirt donated by US soccer star Meg Rapinoe as well as a pair of leather football boots from 1921 owned by munitions worker Fanny Williams.
CEO of The Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust Hedley Swain said: “We are excited to be hosting this important exhibition – a celebration of the women who have championed
the cause of women’s football, closely linked to the wider campaign for women’s equality.
“With Brighton & Hove as one of the host cities for this summer’s UEFA Women’s EUROS 2022 we hope the exhibition will play its part in continuing the process of recognising the women’s game and bringing even more equality to world football.”