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A First for Female Footballers

July 21, 2019

Photo BBC News. 

One of the early stars of English women's football has become the  first female player to be commemorated with a statue. ( The Football Association said there were 110 statues of male players ). A life-size bronze sculpture of Lily Parr, who played professionally in the 1920s, was unveiled at the National Football Museum in Manchester in June this year. Parr, who died in 1978 aged 73, was the first woman to feature in the museum's Football Hall of Fame in 2002. Female participation levels surged during the First World War and Parr’s career began at a time when the women’s game overshadowed that of the men’s. A Boxing Day match in 1920 between her team and St Helens Ladies at Goodison Park was watched by a crowd of 53,000, with 14,000 more unable to get into the ground – yet the Football Association soon outlawed the game, deeming it "unsuitable for females". We can only wonder why?


Sculptor Hannah Stewart works on the Lily Parr statue. Photograph: PR/Solent News and Photo Agency

Tim Desmond, the National Football Museum's chief executive, described the statue by sculptor Hannah Stewart as "iconic and pioneering". Former England and Arsenal captain Faye White added: "It's important to see where the game has come from and what characters such as Lily did for the game in their time." The statue of Parr, commissioned by the Football Association sponsors Mars, will join strikingly few commemorating individual named sportswomen in the UK, where there are believed to be just two: double Wimbledon tennis champion Dorothy Round in her home town of Dudley and Olympic pentathlon champion Dame Mary Peters in Belfast. Gemma Buggins, Mars brand director, said: “Lily Parr was the heroine of her time in the sporting world. It’s an honour to be able to recognise her and commemorate the inspirational woman that she was...With England’s Lionesses preparing for this summer’s tournament, we hope the unveiling of the first ever female footballer statue spurs them on and gives them the motivation to go all the way.”