Women’s football roots revealed – as Stirling researcher announces inaugural seminar

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The first recorded evidence of women’s football in Europe has been commemorated – as a University of Stirling research student announced an inaugural seminar celebrating the beautiful game.

Karen Grunwell, a postgraduate researcher at Stirling, joined Scotland’s most successful female footballer, Rose Reilly; Aileen Campbell MSP; and Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) chairperson Vivienne MacLaren, to mark the special anniversary on 21 August, in Carstairs, Lanarkshire.

A Kirk Minister’s objection to women playing football on a Sunday, in a document dated 21 August 1628, is the first recorded evidence of the women’s game in Europe. The Carstairs Minister condemned women and men for playing football on the Sabbath, as this was expected to be a religious day devoted to solemn reflection and worship.

Karen, who is based in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities' Division of Communications, Media and Culture, is researching the history of women’s football in Scotland. On 8 March 2019 – International Women’s Day – at Hampden Park, she will lead a seminar on the development of women’s football, in collaboration with the Scottish Football Museum and SWF.

Left to right: Vivienne MacLaren, Rose Reilly, Aileen Campbell MSP, Karen Grunwell

Image left to right: Vivienne MacLaren, Rose Reilly, Aileen Campbell MSP and Karen Grunwell.

Karen said:

It is fitting to announce the launch of the inaugural seminar on women’s football in Scotland on the anniversary on the first-known record of women playing the game.

"The seminar on 8 March will explore the rich history of women’s football and the bright future of the game here in Scotland.”

While the specific location of the football activity is not mentioned in the Minister’s document, his church in Carstairs was situated at the head of the Village Green, with a church having stood on the site since before the 17th century (although the current building dates from the 18th century). Historians believe the Village Green was the likely focal point for football activity in 1628.

Aileen Campbell MSP said “As Clydesdale’s MSP, I am thrilled that Carstairs in my constituency is the location of the first recorded women’s football game in Europe. It is therefore fitting to be welcoming the game ‘home’ as we promote women’s football and encourage women and girls to take up sport.

As a football fan, I am delighted to see women’s football continue to grow and develop. This is a sport which has an illustrious and very local history, and I congratulate everyone who has helped bring this commemoration together.

Vivienne MacLaren, Chairperson of SWF, said: “Scotland has a proud history within the women’s game and we are delighted to acknowledge that women’s football has been present in Scotland for 390 years; far longer than most people would imagine.

As custodians of women’s football in Scotland, we also welcome the launch of the first seminar to be held to share ideas and develop the game in Scotland.

Robert Craig, Chair of the Scottish Football Museum, said: “Scotland is well-known and respected for its long and pioneering history in the world of men’s football. But perhaps less well known is the rich and longstanding history of women’s football in Scotland.

“Women’s football is often regarded as a relatively new sport, so we are delighted to highlight this written evidence tracing its roots back to the 17th century.”

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