Study sheds light on 70 years of women football fans’ experiences

Interviews revealed memories of cheering on Newcastle United players Jackie Milburn and the Robledo brothers, and of drinking Bovril during half-time.

A recent study has revealed new insights into the experiences and memories of women football fans from the 1950s onwards, with a particular focus on those of Newcastle United fans, which include testimonies of match-days, FA cup victories, and past attitudes towards women supporters.

Newcastle United fans at Newcastle train station, April 2nd 1952, heading to Leeds for the semi-final replay against Blackburn Rovers. IMAGE: Durham University.

The research, conducted by Dr Stacey Pope from the University of Durham’s Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, involved interviews with around 50 fans of Newcastle United’s men’s team, as well as a study of current fans of England women’s football team.

The testimonies now feature on the newly launched website Women Football Fans.

They include recollections of Newcastle United’s success in the 1950s, when the club won three FA Cup finals (in 1951, 1952, and 1955).

Joan (a pseudonym) recalled the excitement in the city when the ‘Magpies’ reached the finals: ‘The streets were all in black and white, and in those days, you didn’t dye your hair, but some of the kids would have the white streak.’

Interviews also revealed memories of cheering on players Jackie Milburn and the Robledo brothers, and of drinking Bovril during half-time.

Beryl remembered despairing about one boyfriend (who would later become her husband): “Oh mum, it won’t last,” I says, “He’s two years younger than me. And he’s a Sunderland supporter.”

Mirrorpix Newcastle United fans in Trafalgar Square, before the 1955 FA Cup Final. The score was Newcastle United 3-1 Manchester City. IMAGE: Durham University.

However, the stadiums were heavily male dominated during this time. It was also not seen as socially acceptable or safe for women and girls to attend matches on their own.

Recalling his aunt’s support for Newcastle United, one interviewee said: ‘She was attending games from before the first cup run in the 1950s. At that point she purchased a season ticket, which given the outlet at the time, was a bold thing for a girl.’

Dr Kevin Moore, of the National Football Museum, said: ‘The audience for this website will not just be all Newcastle United fans, but also football fans in general, around the world, who will be fascinated by this until now hidden part of football’s history.’