First women’s teams lined up for Hibs honour

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A MEMORIAL could be created at Easter Road to mark the first organised game of women’s football in the UK.

Historians at Hibernian confirmed they were looking into the possibility after it emerged the ground was the birthplace for the sport in the late 19th century – an event that sparked outrage in the Victorian era.

“No-one here knew about this at all, it’s been a great surprise,” said club historian Tom Wright.

The controversial encounter took place in 1881, but the trend was to be short lived after riots brought a crackdown lasting almost a century.

The match itself involved a team from Stirling, full of ladies determined to show the women’s game could thrive.

Experts said at that time there would have been little evidence of a developed “ground” – Hibs did not even move in there for another ten years.

Mr Wright said talks were to take place on how to commemorate the event.

He told the Evening News: “I think this is great news, and it’s another first for the Hibs. We’ll see about the possibility of having a plaque put in, or even some kind of exhibition if there are any photographs from the game itself.”

The remarkable tale of Mrs Graham’s XI – led by suffragette Nellie Matthews who played under the name of Mrs Graham – was found by artist Stuart Gibbs, who is researching for an exhibition of women’s football through the ages.

One other match was played that year, with Scotland beating England 3-0, but riots ensued and the sport was banned.

Mr Gibbs said: “The players were all part of the rights for women movement, so maybe the game was seen as a sign of the times and had some influence.”

It was 1971 before the FA in England lifted the ban on women’s football. Now the game is flourishing both sides of the Border.

Former Provost Councillor Lesley Hinds, herself a former women’s footballer, said: “It’s important to remember what they would have gone through to play in this game.

“This isn’t a story I was aware of, so having a plaque could get people talking about it.”

Christine Walker, whose teenage daughter Alyshia was stopped from playing in “the biggest game of her life” when the English FA enforced male-only rules on a nationwide competition, welcomed the idea.

Christine, from Blackburn, West Lothian, said highlighting the struggle of women 130 years ago would send the right messages today. “It might have made a difference to Alyshia’s case,” she said.