Programme Archive Tasglann Phrògraman


BBC ALBA – Thursday 18 September at 9.30pm


BBC ALBA - Diardaoin 26mh Sultain aig 9.30f

Honeyballers group picture


Driven by a succession of remarkable female pioneers, the backdrop to Scottish women’s football is one of adversity, determination, inspiration and above all survival.

The earliest reference to women playing football anywhere in Europe can be found in Scotland in 1628 - at that time, Lanarkshire was a hotbed of women’s football – and in 1881 the world’s first international women’s football match was played in Edinburgh.

Now, a new BBC ALBA factual entertainment programme – Honeyballers – sheds light on the compelling story of Scottish women’s football and its determined fight to survive and prosper.

The programme provides an insight into the key figures of the women’s game, a remarkable journey that saw the early icons battle against discrimination to establish the game on a world scale, paving the way for the current national side that includes stars Kim Little, Jennifer Beattie and Gemma Fay – who all appear in the documentary - and who are aiming to qualify for the World Cup in 2015.

The current challenge facing the game is how to drive participation forward but that is done with the support and expertise of Sheila Begbie, Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football at the Scottish Football Association, Stewart Regan, SFA Chief Executive, and Anna Signeul, Scotland National Coach, all of whom speak during the documentary.

Laura Montgomery, Club Manager at Glasgow City FC, also comments during the programme: “There is a lot of focus to drive the clubs and continue to develop forward. That really has been one of the catalysts towards driving us. We certainly have been very ambitious and it’s great to have a national association in the women’s department that continued to encourage us and move forward, and try and break previous boundaries and barriers that have been there.”

Jenny Forbes as Mrs Proctor (right), Steven Meechan as Mr Proctor (middle), Sara Jack as Spectator or Victorian Lady (left)

History of women’s football:

Despite a number of attempts to eradicate the female game, the early pioneers of the late 19th and early 20th century persevered, fighting against discrimination and standing up to the negativity imparted by the media and football bodies of the period.

Richard McBrearty, curator of the Scottish Football Museum, explains that the footballing authorities in the 19th century did little to help the women’s cause. Richard said: “You just have to look at the Scottish FA in the 19th century. It’s a men-only club. The prospect of women playing football to them is incredulous. They shouldn’t be doing it, full stop. They don’t want to have a conversation about it. The simple fact is that it’s a men-only game. They refer to it as a masculine game. On top of that, you have a sports press who totally and utterly agree with that philosophy on sport and football in particular, that women shouldn’t be playing it.”

Victorian Scotland was not ready for women’s involvement in sport, preferring instead to adhere to the notion of the preferred place of the weaker sex being the home. In 1894 the medical profession also voiced their concern at women playing football, calling for a complete ban of the game.

But despite this backdrop, Lily St Clair, a Scot, had entered the history books when she scored the first recorded international goal in a match against England in May 1881. More than a decade later, she was instrumental in the creation of the British Ladies Football Club, formed in 1895. Lady Florence Dixie, a member of the aristocracy from Dumfries, became patron of this club at the behest of captain Mary Hutson, who played under the attention grabbing pseudonym of Nettie Honeyball. Together, they strove to develop the women’s game and advocate equal rights for women.

Dr Jean Williams, a senior research fellow at De Montford University, explains the controversy around the club. Dr Williams said: “One of the really interesting things about the British Ladies Football Club is the way in which the middle class Nettie Honeyball, who is secretary of the club, cooperated with the aristocrat Lady Florence Dixie. Lady Florence Dixie was significant, although we don’t think she ever kicked a ball in her life because she was an incredible sportswoman: she was very much into hunting, shooting and fishing, and she was very much an explorer.

“And she was also, because of her family connections, [her brother was 9th Marquess of Queensberry] involved in the biggest single scandal of 1895 - the Oscar Wilde case. And because of that anything that Lady Florence Dixie did in 1895 was going to be slightly scandalous, therefore her connection with women’s football gave it a currency with press and the media that it wouldn’t otherwise have had.”

In 1902 the Council of the Football Association issued a warning to its member clubs not to allow charitable matches against women’s teams to be played. The First World War though would provide women with a window of opportunity in which to develop their game as Dr Fiona Skillen, from Glasgow Caledonian University, explains.

Dr Skillen said: “The First World War is a real critical point for women, especially working class women. The First World War opens up a number of opportunities as women are needed to go into the workplace to take up the jobs that the men have left vacant and so, you find that there is a growth in different kinds of sports, different kinds of leisure activities, because these young women are getting involved with them.

“Football was one of those things that grows during the First World War and a lot of that is tied to the ammunitions factories. There’s an argument that the owners of the ammunitions factories actively encouraged women to play football so we see the growth of lots of women’s football teams during that First World War period.”

In Scotland a flurry of teams emerged, and a squad from Beardmore’s Forge in Glasgow played in an unofficial match versus England at Celtic Park on the March 2, 1918. With crowds of over 50,000 attending matches across the country, the women’s game was booming. However, in the early 1920s, the emancipation that women had enjoyed during the Great War in the workplace and in football was dramatically curtailed. The football authorities played their part, issuing what was effectively a blanket ban on the women’s game in 1921, pushing the women’s game underground.

Richard McBrearty explains: “If you look through the Scottish FA minute books, from 1924/1925, there’s three separate clubs - Raith Rovers, Aberdeen, and Queen of the South – who make approaches to the Scottish FA requesting permission for their grounds to be used for women’s football matches. And, in each occasion the Scottish FA, quite damningly, tells them ‘no’, that you cannot use your grounds for staging these particular matches.”

A number of female pioneers such as Edinburgh City Girls’ and Dick, Kerr Ladies captain Nancy ‘Cannonball’ Thomson, ensured the game’s survival, despite the fact the ‘ban’ was not lifted until the 1970s when, under pressure from UEFA, Scotland finally agreed to recognise women’s football. However, there was still a major struggle ahead.

Richard continues: “You look back to the 1970s and you would expect to see radical changes to attitudes to sport and society, in general. However, looking at the information from research, attitudes haven’t changed remarkably from the 19th century, up as far as the early 1970s, and there still is, largely, a male dominated authority, and the press have to put their hands up to the fact that, again, it’s a male dominated press who don’t really actively look at the women’s game favourably.”

At this time, talented Scots such as Rose Reilly and Edna Neillis migrated to Europe in order to fulfil their ambitions to play professional football. Rose would go on to play for the Italian national side and become one of the most respected players in women’s football – and in the process, inspire the current crop of stars including Little, Beattie and Fay.

Honeyballers is a one-off factual entertainment programme exploring the unique journey of the pioneers of Scottish women’s football. Narrated by Alex O’Henley, the documentary film is produced for BBC ALBA by purpleTV. (For further information see www.purpletv.tv).

The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 qualifying campaign begins on the September 22, 2013 with an away fixture against the Faroes Islands. Scotland play in a group alongside Faroes Islands, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Poland and Sweden.

Honeyballers will be broadcast on BBC ALBA on the September 24, 2013 at 9.30pm and is being shown after BBC ALBA’s exclusive live coverage of Scotland’s World Cup 2015 qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina.


Air am brosnachadh le sreath de bhoireannaich iongantach, tha stòiridh ball-coise nam ban an Alba air a comharrachadh le strì, iomadachd, misneachd agus os cionn gach nì eile, am miann gus cumail a’ dol.

’S e boireannaich na h-Alba a thug ball-coise nam ban chun chòrr dhen t-saoghal. ’S ann an Alba ann an 1628 a chaidh clàradh an toiseach gun robh boireannaich a’ cluich ball-coise san Roinn-Eòrpa – aig an àm bha Siorrachd Lannraig aig cridhe an leasachaidh – agus ann an 1881, chaidh a’ chiad gheama eadar-nàiseanta airson boireannaich a chluich ann an Dùn Èideann. A dh’aindeoin oidhirpean cur às do gheama nam ban, lean boireannaich aig deireadh an 19mh linn agus toiseach an 20mh linn ri strì an aghaidh gach ceum neo-thaiceil agus nàmhaideach a chaidh a dhèanamh leis na meadhanan agus buidhnean oifigeach ball-coise aig an àm. ’S e dìleab nam boireannach sin a tha a’ fàgail chluicheadaran tàlantach na h-Alba an-diugh ag amas air àite a chosnadh dhaibh fhèin ann an cuairtean deireannach Cupa an t-Saoghail ann an Canada ann an 2015.

Jenny Forbes as Mrs Proctor (right), Steven Meechan as Mr Proctor (middle), Sara Jack as Spectator or Victorian Lady (left)

’S e th’ ann an Honeyballers ach sgeulachd tharraingeach ball-coise nam ban ann an Alba, agus an strì airson aithneachadh agus gu dearbh, a bhith beò.

Tha an sgeulachd air a h-innse le Alex O’Henley, agus chaidh am prògram a riochdachadh le purpleTV airson BBC ALBA. Airson barrachd fiosrachaidh faic : www.purpletv.tv

Bidh an iomairt airson Cupa an t-Saoghail aig FIFA 2015 a’ tòiseachadh air 22 Sultain nuair a bhitheas Alba a’ cluich an aghaidh nan Eileanan Fàrach air falbh bhon taigh. Sa bhuidhinn aig Alba cuideachd, tha Bosnia-Herzegovina, an t-Suain, a’ Phòlainn agus Èirinn-a-Tuath.

Bidh Honeyballers ri fhaicinn air BBC ALBA air 26 Sultain 2013 aig 2130.

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2013 Programme ArchiveTasglann Phrògraman 2013

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Follow this link to the 2014 news press release archive.

Lean an ceangal seo gu tasglann naidheachdan 2014.