In 2016, there are professional contracts for the top women in the worlds of both cricket and football and female tennis champions get the same as their male counterparts. But how did we get to this point?

Obstacles have come in all forms over the years. Some are controllable like wanting to have a family, others are less controllable for sportswomen – things like cultural and societal rules.

Colin Bailey, Sports Historian, explains why women might be behind male counterparts 

Then you get the kind of obstacle that really shouldn’t exist in the 21st century. Luckily for women the number of people in positions of power who hold beliefs like what you can see below have dropped significantly – and those who make statements like this in public generally resign not long after – as Raymond Moore did after he made these comments.

Footage of Raymond Moore speaking at the US Open Courtesy of the BBC via TYT Network

Below is a brief history of women’s sporting progression starting with the first recorded matches in tennis, football and cricket, starting all the way back in 1745 and working through to the present day.

The first recorded game of women’s cricket took place. The village of Hambledon beat the village of Bramley by 8 “notches”. Women’s cricket has never really looked back and although there have been individual incidents at clubs it has remained a popular sport. Despite this women never really played “professionally” until 2014.

Late 1880-1900
The very first Ladies Championship was held at Wimbledon, there had been requests for the tournament before but it was 1884 when the All England Club finally abated and allowed it to go ahead. The entry fee was exactly half of that of the men. 13 women entered and Maud Watson was victorious.


The first recorded game of women’s football took place in London with a side from North London, taking on a side from South London in 1895. The North won 7-1 and the match added to the profile of women in Preston and Manchester who played early incarnations of charity matches.

These matches grew in popularity until the FA outlawed women playing football on its clubs pitches on the grounds that it was “distasteful for women” to be involved.

Archery at the 1908 Olympics
Archery at the 1908 Olympics

Women were first allowed to enter the Olympics in 1900. There were fewer events for them to enter. They could enter: tennis; sailing; croquet; equestrian and golf – with only tennis and golf having separate events for women only.

Because of political and global instability the progression of women’s sport stagnated for almost a century where other than cricket most sports lost a large number of female participants. But in the last 25 years more has been done to advance women’s sport than in the previous 250.

In 1991 the first Women’s Football World Cup was held marking a huge boost for female internationals and the following year the Women’s Premier League was established in England. Incarnations of that league were around until 2011 at which point the FA established the Women’s Super League. Female internationals received central contracts in 2009 which was another huge boost for the women’s game in the UK.

Early female tennis players
Early female tennis players
The Modern tennis champion
The Modern tennis champion

In tennis terms, when Wimbledon agreed to pay equal prize money in 2007 all the tennis majors paid champions the same amount, something that has been heavily criticised in some corners, but continues to this day.

Cricket steadily grew in popularity throughout the 20th century and despite this English women only received central contracts from the ECB allowing them to play almost full time in 2014 with most players retained for the current season.

The Future
The women’s Super League in football has been running for some time now and the ECB have introduced it’s very own for female cricketers with 6 teams playing this summer. But what impact will it have on the women’s game?

Sue Redfern of the ECB on the opportunity presented by the Women’s Super League

The 6 teams entered into the inaugural Women’s Super League are:

Lancashire Thunder; Loughborough Lightning; Southern Vipers (Hampshire); Surrey Stars; Western Storm (Somerset/Gloucestershire); Yorkshire Diamonds

Each team consists of a core number of England internationals and each team can then have up to 3 other internationals from other nations. The rest of the team is made up of amateur players from the representative counties