Sporting Reunions, and Contemporary Museum Collections: Case Studies of Manchester Corinthians, formed 1949 and Harry Batt’s ’71 England Team
Having been selected as the academic lead to The National Football Museum to assist with the purchase of the 25,000 item Chris Ungar collection of women’s football memorabilia, Jean Williams has subsequently been working with the museum to interpret the collection. A key issue arising out of what is now undoubtedly the most important global collection of women’s football items, dating back to 1869, was the need to develop contemporary collections for future use. As a direct result, Prof Williams and the National Football Museum held a reunion of women football players, over 2 days on 30 September and 1 October 2018 to mark National Sporting Heritage day.
The initiative sought out those active before 1993 when the FA formally took control of women’s football, and one of the key teams to be reunited was Harry Batt’s England team who represented their country, albeit unofficially, at the Women’s World Cup in Mexico in 1971. There were also important England players who attended, including Captain Gill Coultard, who has 119 caps, and Kerry Davies who scored 44 goals in 80 England games. Many of the Manchester Corinthians FC team attended, whose eldest member at the reunion was 84 years of age and had been part of the founding of the club in 1949. Of course this wider reunion will be the focus of future work. However, the focus of this blog is firstly, the Manchester Corinthians FC and secondly, the unofficial England women’s team to represent the country at the Mexico 1971 Women’s World Cup.
The Manchester Corinthians team 1949
The Corinthian Ladies were founded in 1949 by Percy Ashley, with the intention to provide his daughter, Doris, with the opportunity to play football. The name was chosen to reflect the amateur Corinthian values that had preceded professionalism. Accordingly, the team was made up of career women, from typists to machinists.
Gladys Aiken took charge of the team in the late 1960s, and kept a series of scrapbooks to trace the journey of the Corinthians. This gives an insight into women managing their own teams, well before it was conventional for women to work in the football industry. Interestingly Pat Dunn was also allowed to referee an international match in 1969. Pat would later travel to the unofficial World Cup with Harry Batt’s team as a chaperone and trainer.
The Corinthians were aged between 13 and 40 years of age, and often played against their second team, the Nomads, eventually forming a third team, the Allstars, as well. The team trained at Fog Lane Park in Didsbury every Sunday, whatever the weather. There are snapshots of them trailing buckets of water to the changing rooms nearby as there was no running hot water. After tours of South America, Europe and North Africa, the team eventually raised over £275,000 for charity, mostly the Red Cross and Oxfam.
The players also confirmed the stories of Bert Trautmann acting as official interpreter for the Manchester Corinthians team who, representing England, won a tournament held in Germany in 1957 and provided their snapshots of him. Some players donated shirts, memorabilia and so on to the museum.
The Organisation of the Unofficial Women’s World Cups of 1970 and 1971
Held out side the auspices of FIFA only one year after Mexico hosted the men’s world cup, this was a key moment in the history of women’s football because it proved a large commercial market for women-only tournaments. This built upon a successful Women’s World Championship in Italy in 1970. The opening games were played in front of crowds of 80,000 people. England played in group 1 against the hosts Mexico and Argentina. Group 2 comprised France, Italy, and Denmark. Using the memories of players at the reunion, some as young as thirteen, the discussion argues that, because of the historic marginalization of women in written documentation in sporting archives, social strategies, such as reunions, combined with oral history research and social media connectivity can help to develop contemporary collections policies in museums and heritage offers.
After the Italy unofficial women’s world cup of 1970, a two-day conference, on 5th and 6th December 1970, in the Ambassador’s Hotel Torino, Italy, convened the first world congress of the International Federation of Femenin Football (FIFF).
Following the use of a mascot, World Cup Willie, in a world cup for the first time in the men’s world Cup in England 1966, thereafter, sporting tournaments of all kinds used a mascot to promote their event, including unofficially at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble. However, Mexico played a key role in promoting mascots as emblems of various tournaments: there was an unofficial dove and jaguar mascot at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games, and Juanito for the FIFA men’s World Cup tournament of 1970. The mascot for the unofficial women's world cup in 1971 was Xochitel, the flower.
Photograph courtesy of Leah Caleb taken in the Aztec Stadium a few days before the start of the tournament, showing some sun damage.
Individuals from Left to Right:
Back row: Keith Batt (Mascot), June Batt (Assistant Manager), Players - Marlene Collins, Lilian Harris (GK) Evonne Farr, Jean Breckon, Carol Wilson (Capt), Christine Lockwood, Jill Stockley, Pat Dunn (Trainer & Chaperone), Harry Batt (Manager)
Front Row: Valerie Cheshire, Louise Cross, Gillian Sayell, Paula Rayner, Janice Barton, Trudy McCaffery, Leah Caleb
The England ’71 team
When the team departed for Mexico on Thursday 5th August 1971, there was no direct flight so they went via London – New York – Mexico City. Christine Lockwood, who was fifteen years old at the time remembered the engine of the plane from New York catching fire and returning to land before repairs enabled the team to continue. The team did not return until Tuesday 7th September 1971 from Mexico City via Paris to London. Since most of the players had not been on a plane before, this must have been a very exciting time! Though they were not so successful on the pitch. Television cameras, media coverage and large crowds. The stories are just emerging and more research is to follow.
We concluded the two days of reunion with a civic reception at the Lord Mayor’s suite in Manchester. Here we toasted the success of the players, their fortitude and their friendship. We were also treated to a song often used by the Manchester Corinthians.
Please, if you have any more details of women players from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s do get in touch.
Posts written by Jean or Joanna.