International Womens Day - Celebrating Women in Football
Celebrating international women's day in the east riding
On Monday our Women and Girl’s Development Officer Kirsty Leake had the pleasure of being invited to the Lord Mayors Centenary Plaque unveiling.
Florence ‘Flo’ Bilton was nominated to be honoured at these awards to recognise her significant achievements in the city of Hull as player, influential figure and founding member of the Women’s Football Association.
Kirsty was joined by former England footballers Carol Thomas and Karen Walker who knew Flo from their footballing careers. Carol and Karen both paid tribute to Flo sharing stories and anecdotes of their memories of Flo from their time in Women’s football. It was interesting and touching to hear such fond memories they both had of Flo and how inspirational and influential she was in their footballing careers and how she positively impacted Women’s football both locally and nationally.
As today is International Women’s Day we are celebrating Women in football within the East Riding.
We have so many women involved in the game in the county from development officers at different organisations in the area driving the game forward and creating more opportunities for females to participate, to grassroots coaches coaching teams across the different leagues within the County. We also have a growing number of Referees who officiate games across the County leagues along with a number of women who hold a variety of different roles within the clubs in the East Riding.
Find out more about Florence 'Flo' Bilton.
Flo Bilton was influential in the formation of the Women’s Football Association in 1969. She served as WFA membership secretary for many years.
Flo’s dedication to the game was fantastic, she washed the kit by hand, and created England Caps for the female players after obtaining a men’s cap from a neighbour. She also stitched badges on to kits, chaperoned players and even put together WFA newsletters.
Flo played hockey and netball and cricket of the Reckitt and Colman Factory in Hull where she worked. She was already 40 when the factory leadership tasked her with forming a Women’s team for a charity game in 1963. With Bilton as a Goalkeeper, Reckitt’s saw of rivals Smith and Nephew 2-1 on the 19th April 1963.
Support from the factory continued and Flo’s team eventually produced future England Captain Carol Thomas as well as Doncaster Belles and England striker Gail Borman.
Flo passed away in Hull on 22nd July 2004, but her memory in the area lives on.
The Flo Bilton Trophy was contested by girl’s football teams in the East Riding, and her memory lives on through those that she influenced and encouraged within the world of football.
After the event at the Guild Hall on Monday morning honouring Flo, Kirsty caught up with Carol Thomas, to find out about her career and ask her a few questions about her time in football and playing for England.
Find out about Carol's football career.
Carol Thomas was the second captain of England and she is one of the unsung pioneers of the women’s game.
Carol was born in Hull and played for some of the local teams in the East Riding some of which are still running today.
As a right back Carol played for England from 1974-1985, earning 56 caps over her 11 year career for her country.
Carol’s love for football came from her dad playing local football on a Sunday, and having a younger and older brother who both liked football, so she came from a football family.
Carol lived a few doors down from the person who ran the British Oil and Cocoa Mills team and they asked Carol to come and join their team,that was just the start of Carol's footballing journey.
The England team were invited to play in many invitational tournaments, and Carol got the opportunity to travel to lots of European countries including; Sweden, Italy, France and Belgium to name a few. The furthest she travelled was to Japan in 1981 to play in a competition. Carol enjoyed her time in Japan, the tournament was extremely well organised and the players received free kit during their time there, something which was a huge bonus back then.
Players received expenses for travel during their time in the England squad, however this was percentage of what was paid out and Carol and her teammates did it for the love of the game, as they were honoured and proud to represent their country.
Carol has also coached in local primary schools since she stopped playing, and supported coaches at AFC Preston when required. According to local sources she can be often found on the sidelines at Hedon Rangers AFC cheering on the teams there.
It was a pleasure to meet Carol and speak to her about her footballing career and hear stories about her time playing local football and for England.
I asked Carol if she had any words of encouragement for any girls or women thinking about getting involved or those already involved. Carol's reply was 'Do it and enjoy it, listen to your coaches, you can learn a lot from them and you can achieve anything.'
To have two women from Hull who have been influential in the Women's game is fantastic, and hopefully their stories will inspire more girls and women to get involved in the game.
Karen Walker although not from Hull is an active member of the Humberside Police Force. Find out about Karen's footballing career.
Even though Karen is not Hull born and bred she has lived here for a long time and is a dedicated member of the Humberside Police Force and is a positive influence in the communities within Hull.
Karen started her footballing career at Doncaster Belles where she played for 20 years from the age of 15.
Doncaster Belles during that time were one of the top teams in the Women’s game, and during her time there Karen played in 11 FA Women’s FA Cup Final, winning 5 of them.
Karen spend the last 2 years of her playing career at Leeds United after moving from the Belles, and finished playing football in 2006.
Karen was inducted into the English Hall of Fame in 2007.
I played football because my big brother did. I followed him everywhere.
What was the landscape of Women's football when you started playing?
It was very different at first, no fans, all self funded travelling in your own cars. There were some very good players at the time, but normally on team from the south and Doncaster Belles were the ones competing for the trophies.
You captained England, how was that experience?
Captaining England is the most proudest moment of my life. You would just feel 10 feet tall every time you played.
Who was your role model in football whilst you were playing?
It was mostly male role models then. I am a big Manchester United fan so it was Mark Hughes.
What would your message be to any girls or women thinking about playing football and do you have a message for young aspiring footballers?
I would tell anyone to get involved. I got to travel the country and travel the world doing something I love.
It keeps you fit and gives you confidence that you can take into every part of your life.
At this time the world is your oyster as a female footballer.
Don't just sit and watch it on TV! Play, be part of it and have experiences beyond your wildest dreams. You will create memories that you will keep forever until you are old like me.
It’s fantastic to have a number of influential women from the East Riding who were pioneers in the Women’s game and who have paved the way for females in the game today.
If you would like more information on Women's Football within the East Riding contact Kirsty.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.