Minister’s complaint confirms 390th anniversary of women’s football in Europe

Photo Left to Right: Vivienne MacLaren, Rose Reilly, Aileen Campbell MSP, Karen Grunwell.
Photo Left to Right: Vivienne MacLaren, Rose Reilly, Aileen Campbell MSP, Karen Grunwell.

It’s not what you’d expect the small village to be known for, however, a document has revealed evidence of women playing football for the first time took place in Carstairs in 1628, nearly 400-years ago!

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

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.

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 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 8 Series A titles and the World Cup with the Italian national team.

Aileen Campbell MSP said: “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 now, a very local history, and I congratulate everyone who has helped bring this commemoration together.”

Vivienne MacLaren, Chairperson of Scottish Women’s Football said: “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 said: “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.”