Kirk Minister Complaint Confirms 390th Anniversary of Women’s Football in Europe

A KIRK Minister’s objection to women playing football on the Sabbath, reveals that a game in Carstairs, Scotland is the first recorded evidence of the women’s game in Europe. A church document dated Sunday 21st August 1628 condemns women and men playing football on the Sabbath was expected to be a religious day devoted to solemn reflection and worship.

Left to right: Vivian McLaren, Rose Reilly, Aileen Campbell and Karen Grunwell.

To mark the historic 390th anniversary, Aileen Campbell, MSP for Clydesdale, whose constituency includes Carstairs, Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) Chairperson Vivienne MacLaren and World Cup winner and Scotland’s most successful female footballer Rose Reilly met in Carstairs to commemorate the date, the earliest known record of women’s football in Europe.

While the specific location of the football activity is not mentioned in the document, the Minister’s church in Carstairs is situated at the head of the Village Green with a church having stood on that site long before the seventeenth century (although the current church building dates from the eighteenth century). Historians believe it is reasonable to suggest that the Village Green was the likely focal point for the football activity in 1628.

The text from the image above reads: 1628 21 August – The same day, Mr John Lindsay, minister at Carstairs, having regretted the break of the Sabbath by the insolent behaviour of men and women in footballing, dancing and Barley Breaks, ordains every Brother (Minister) to labour to restrain the foresaid insolence and break of Sabbath, and to that effect to make intimation thereof into their several kirks next Sabbath day.

The transcript from the Presbytery of Lanark Registers – the original register is held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Aileen Campbell MSP, SWF Chairperson Vivienne MacLaren and Rose Reilly were joined by Karen Grunwell who is currently researching the history of women’s football in Scotland funded by the University of Stirling.  Karen, a postgraduate researcher, announced the launch of the inaugural seminar on women’s football in Scotland which will take place at Hampden Park on March 8th, 2019 to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Rose Reilly, an an inductee of the Scottish Football Hall of Fame, is widely considered to be Scotland’s most successful female footballer. Born in Kilmarnock she is best known for her time playing in Italy where she won eight Serie A titles and the World Cup with the Italian national team.

Karen is managing the seminar in collaboration with the Scottish Football Museum & Scottish Women’s Football (SWF). The seminar will bring together interested parties from across women’s football to discuss the development of the game and to share best practice. Registration details will be confirmed in due course.

 Aileen Campbell MSP expressed delight saying: “As Clydesdale’s MSP, I am thrilled that Carstairs in my constituency is the location of the first recorded Women’s football game in Europe. It is therefore fitting to be welcoming the game ‘home’ as we promote Women’s football and encourage Women and Girls to take up sport. As a football fan, I am delighted to see Women’s football continue to grow and develop. This is a sport which has an illustrious and very local history, and I congratulate everyone who has helped bring this commemoration together.”

 Vivienne MacLaren, Chairperson of Scottish Women’s Football added: “Scotland has a proud history within the women’s game and we are delighted to acknowledge that women’s football has been present in Scotland for 390 years, far longer than most people would imagine. As custodians of women’s football in Scotland we also welcome the launch of the first seminar to be held to share ideas and develop the game in Scotland.”

Robert Craig, Chair of the Scottish Football Museum also shared: “Scotland is well-known and respected for its long and pioneering history in the world of men’s football. But perhaps less well known is the rich and longstanding history of women’s football in Scotland. Women’s football is often regarded as a relatively new sport, so we are delighted to highlight this written evidence tracing its roots back to the seventeenth century.”

Karen Grunwell, Postgraduate researcher, University of Stirling spoke of her delight of the recognition: “It is fitting to announce the launch of the inaugural seminar on women’s football in Scotland on the anniversary on the first-known record of women playing the game. The seminar on March 8 will explore the rich history of women’s football and the bright future of the game here in Scotland.”