Friday 25 September 2009

The Dawn of Football at Valley Parade

Football has been played at Valley Parade on a regular basis ever since Bradford City were formed in 1903. Prior to that date the oval ball ruled the roost as City's predecessors Manningham Rugby Club played both rugby union and rugby league at the ground.

Prior to 1903 several local football matches were played at Valley Parade, but thanks to research by the bantamspast team we can reveal that the first ever football match played at Valley Parade was a women's football match.

On 7 May 1895 the British Ladies' Football Club played an exhibition North v South match at Valley Parade. Thus the game was ground breaking in more than one way. As both the first ever football match on the ground and one of the earliest women's football matches played in the World to a paying public.

Following is the report from the Bradford Daily Argus of 8 May 1895.

The active members of the British Ladies' Football Club paid a visit to Bradford and played a match under Association rules on the ground of the Manningham Club last evening. The game attracted a considerable attendance. There were probably 2,000 people present, including a sprinkling of lady spectators. The players as they posed on the field and as the pursued their sport, presented a series of interesting and, to Bradfordians, highly novel pictures. Each player was attired in loose tunic and bifurcated nether garments, with the exception of the goal keepers, who were in skirts. The sides were Reds and Blues. On each side hostilities were conducted by ten players, there being one forward less than the customary compliment. As regards play it was of a leisurely character and a rather poor exhibition of the Association style. "Little Tommy" dominated play, and towards the finish one or two of the other participants played up with spirit. The game ended in a draw.

Bradford Daily Telegraph, 8 May 1895
Although the visit of the Lady Footballers to Valley Parade last night had only been advertised for one day a crowd of between 2,000 and 3,000 people turned up to see the fun. It was fun that was expected by the spectators, and fun was all that was forthcoming, the attempts at football being feeble and farcical. There was nothing in the costume of the lady footballers to shock Mrs Grundy, but all the same the attire is not likely to become popular with the fair sex, for the simple reason that it is not becoming. Had the lady footballers been less favoured by nature they would have presented a "dowdy" appearance, but the natural beauty and grace of several saved the team from this. To the regret of many Rugbyites the ladies played yesterday evening under Association rules, and owing to the half-hearted way in which most of the players entered into their work the exhibition at times fell woefully flat. Several members of the team seemed, as the crowd put it, afraid of hurting the ball, and they persistently refused to "give it boot." The kicking of some was so gentle as to suggest parlour football, but there was one exception. A young girl operating on the left wing, who was styled "Tommy" by the London spectators under the belief that she was a boy, put in a lot of dashing play and fairly roused the crowd from its lethargy to cheering. She was certainly worth any three of the other players, but at the same time it should be said that one or two other players did not "frame" at all badly. The great drawback to ladies' football, however, seems to lie in the fact that is seems a physical impossibility for ladies to run quickly and gracefully. As an exhibition of football the play was a miserable travesty of a splendid game and as an entertainment it soon became tedious.

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