Women's Football in Wrexham Wrexham AFC Archive

A Brief History of Women's Football in Wrexham

The Early Years

The first known mention of a women’s football match played on Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground goes as far back as 1917 when the Wrexham Advertiser ran an advert under the heading “An Interesting Match.” The match in question was between Powell’s (Girls’) Athletic Team and Aintree Filling Factory and was scheduled for Boxing Day. The advert claimed that this was: “The first Amateur Ladies Football Match ever played in Wrexham”. The match was played to raise funds for the Wrexham War Memorial Infirmary Fund with the visitors from Liverpool winning 5-0.

Robert and John Powell had founded an ironworks in Wrexham in 1876. During the Second World War Wrexham’s National Shell Factory was established on the site. The factory employed mainly women who held multiple events to raise funds for Wrexham’s two military hospitals.

Just over three years later a ladies team from Dick, Kerr & Co. paid Wrexham a visit on one of their many tours across the country. Dick, Kerr and Co. started out as oil refiners but during the First World War the business was converted to a munitions factory. It was during this term that the Dick, Kerr Ladies football team was formed and they continued to raise funds for charity for nearly fifty years.

Dick, Kerr Ladies had arranged to play St. Helen’s Ladies at the Racecourse Ground on Saturday 19th February 1921. The purpose of the match was to raise funds from the Wrexham & East Denbighshire War Memorial Hospital and an impressive crowd of around 10,000 turned up to watch Dick, Kerr’s win by a score of 2-1.

Women's Football Banned

Any hopes the locals had of seeing more such games at the Racecourse were dashed later that year in December when the English Football Association ‘requested’ that member clubs refuse the use of their grounds for women’s matches, emphasising “their strong opinion that the game is quite unsuitable for females.” The full resolution stated:
- Complaints having been made as to football being played by women, Council felt impelled to express the strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and should not be encouraged.
- Complaints have also been made as to the conditions under which some of the matches have been arranged and played, and the appropriation of receipts to other than charitable objects. The Council are further of the opinion that an excessive proportion of the receipts are absorbed in expenses and an inadequate percentage devoted to charitable objects.
- For these reasons the Council requests the Clubs belonging to the Association refuse the use of their grounds for such matches.

Needless to say, Alfred Frankland, honorary secretary of Dick, Kerr Ladies expressed his disgust at the F.A.’s decision and vowed to continue as long as the organisers of charity games could find grounds to play on.

Wrexham Carnival

There is little further mention of women’s football in the town until September 1937, when two teams from Wrexham and Rossett represented their home towns in a match played as part of Wrexham Carnival, competing for the Carnival Silver Challenge Cup. The game was played at the Parciau, the ongoing English FA ban on the use of members’ grounds for women’s football meant that the Racecourse Ground couldn’t even be considered as a venue.

Rossett won the game 2-0 and even had the luxury of missing a penalty. The Wrexham Advertiser described the match as “a great success and will probably become a fixture for future carnivals.”

The next Carnival was scheduled for June 1938 when it was agreed that another game would take place, however the event was postponed due to heavy rain. The Carnival was eventually rearranged for the following September, with the match scheduled for the evening of Wednesday 7th September, the venue again being the Parciau.

The match was refereed by Tommy Griffiths who was the current Wrexham F.C. manager and had made 54 appearances as a player. Rossett were again victorious, this time winning by a score of 2-1, Joan Monk taking the honour of scoring the first ever goal for a Ladies’ team bearing the Wrexham name.

With a seeming growing interest in women’s football in the area it might have been thought that the game would go from strength to strength. However the Welsh Football Association had other ideas and in December of 1938 doubled down on the wider ban of women’s football.

Swansea Ladies had been hoping to arrange a friendly against Preston Ladies (previously the Dick, Kerr Ladies) in aid of charity. They approached the popular secretary of the Welsh F.A., Ted Robbins, and asked for permission. However Robbins refused the request and stated that “any club which allows a game to be held on their ground will be immediately suspended, and so will any club officials concerned in the organisation of such a match.”

Robbins justified his stance in simple terms. “My association doesn’t approve of football by women. That’s why permission was refused. The members of the council are dead against the playing of football by women.” He added, “It’s a man’s game and women don’t look well playing it.”

Robbins found an ally in a ‘female writer’ at the Daily Sketch. She claimed, “I have watched several matches in Lancashire, and the spectacle of bare-legged women, clad in inadequate running shorts, barging into one another, bawling at the top of their voices, and then retreating from the field is an ugly and regrettable one.” She goes on to express her view that “A women’s football match is not a game. It’s a circus.”

Sadly the onset of the Second World War also put an end to any future matches at the Wrexham Carnival.

It was over 30 years later that the ban on women playing football was finally lifted when the F.A. finally revoked the ban on 19th January 1970. League and cup competitions started to be arranged across the country included the Women’s FA Cup that started in 1971.

The Formation of Wrexham Ladies Football Club

There is no mention of women’s football in Wrexham after those two matches at Wrexham Carnival until the mid-1990s. At the end of the 1992/93 season Mike Rigg, Wrexham F.C.’s Community Programme Officer, announced he was recruiting players for a number of Wrexham F.C. Ladies & Girls teams across a range of age groups. By August he had assembled a squad of between 40 and 50 players. The first game, a friendly against local rivals Chester City at Yale College, was arranged for the end of July and finished in a 2-2 draw. Nicola Smith and Nicola Bellis were the scorers of the new team’s first goals.

Wrexham’s team evolved through the season and they played a number of friendlies including games against Stockport County and Bangor City. The highlight of the season was the team’s competitive debut which came in the Welsh Women’s FA Cup. Drawn away to Colwyn Bay, the Wrexham team found the going tough against their more established rivals, eventually succumbing to a 0-8 defeat.

Good progress continued to be made and an application to join Division Four of the North West Regional Women’s Football League for the 1994/95 season was accepted, Stansty Park having being secured as a home ground. Wrexham couldn’t have wished for a better start as they won their first three games, scoring 37 goals in the process! The unlucky opposition being Manor Athletic (16-0), Urmston (4-0) and Hathershaw (17-0).

Wrexham continued their good form throughout the season, eventually finishing in third place and gaining promotion to Division Three. Jan Manning, Wrexham’s centre forward, also took the award for leading scorer in the League with 40 goals, a rate of 1.8 goals per game.

Division Three proved of little challenge to Wrexham Ladies as they continued their success, finishing the 1995/96 season in second place behind Stockport County, enough for a second successive promotion. The season saw the team’s first appearance in the Women’s FA Cup, winning their first game 2-1 at Nettleham before bowing out 1-3 at home to Manchester United in the second round.

1996/97 saw Wrexham Ladies move their home to Chester Road, Broughton Aerospace as they prepared for life in Division Two. This level proved to be more challenging and the Ladies finished down in 9th place. However they did make the quarter-finals of the Welsh Women’s FA Cup where they were beaten 0-1 by Newcastle Emlyn.

The following 1997/98 season proved to be a poor one for Wrexham as they lost 18 out of 20 games to finish bottom of the table, a 4-2 win at Warrington Grange being the sole victory. Included in the results were 0-12 (home) and 0-15 (away) losses to Manchester City and a very sobering 0-12 defeat at home to Chester City. Wrexham did reach the quarter-final of the Welsh Women’s FA Cup for the second season running, but they suffered a heavy 0-10 loss to Barry Town.

At the end of the season the team ceased to play under the Wrexham name as they became known as Broughton Aerospace for the following three years.

The Wrexham name was revived for the 2001/02 season with the team now in Division One of the restructured North West Women’s Regional Football League. Results on the pitch were mediocre as the team finished in 5th place. An early exit in the Welsh Women’s FA Cup came at the hands of Corwen. Another name change came at the end of the season, this time to Airbus UK Broughton, which brought an end to the story for this incarnation of Wrexham Ladies FC.

A New Start In Wales

A new Wrexham Ladies team was formed for the start of the 2003/04 season and they were accepted into the North Wales Women’s Football League. The team played their home games at the North East Wales Institute (NEWI) next door to the Racecourse Ground and were known as NEWI Wrexham Ladies.

By 2007/08 Wrexham Ladies were beginning to be a force to be reckoned with. They won the North Wales Women’s League by wining ten of their twelve games and also reached the final of the Welsh Women’s FA Cup. Wrexham took on Cardiff City Ladies at Rhayader Town’s Y Weirglodd ground but unfortunately lost 0- 9.

Welsh Women’s football was restructured for the start of the 2009/10 season with the introduction of the Welsh Premier League, split into North and South Conferences, Wrexham being founder members of the former. The winners in each Conference were then to play each other in a play-off to determine the national champions. Wrexham also continued to play in the North Wales Women’s Football League and competed in both until the 2012/13 season when the Welsh Premier League went national.

The joining of the Welsh Premier League also saw the club come under the umbrella of Wrexham Football Club and the NEWI reference was dropped from the name. Wrexham struggled in their first season in the Welsh Premier League, finally finishing bottom of the four team Northern Conference. The following season saw an improvement to third (out of five teams) and the team entered the following season with renewed confidence.

The 2011/12 season proved to be the most successful to date as Wrexham won the Northern Conference of the Welsh Premier League to set up a ‘winner takes all’ play-off with UWIC (University of Wales Institute, Cardiff), now known as Cardiff Met. Unfortunately Wrexham were beaten 0-3 and denied the championship and also a place in Europe.

One of the outstanding performers for Wrexham Ladies that season was Lowri Edwards who scored an incredible 65 goals in 32 appearances. She actually scored seven more but these were removed from the records as they were scored in a game that was expunged when Cefn Druids folded before the end of the season.

2012/13 saw the Welsh Premier League go national and Wrexham gave a good account of themselves and finished in third place. Lowri Edwards was again amongst the goals, 26 in 24 appearances, and she was joined by teenager Syd Hinchcliffe who added 24 of her own in 22 appearances.

Wrexham continued to be competitive in the national league, finishing 6th in each of the next two seasons. However by 2015/16 the club were struggling to recruit the quality of players needed to compete at the highest level and this ultimately led to them folding part way through the season.

The following press release was circulated:
- Wrexham Ladies FC deeply regret to announce that effective from 14th January 2016, they have made the extremely difficult decision to withdraw from the Welsh Women's Premier League.
- Due to the an unprecedented loss of players over the summer, the club have struggled to field a team necessary to compete in the league and to meet the required demands of the club.
- The decision was therefor to withdraw from the league. This will allow the club both the time and the energy to begin the difficult rebuilding process, give the club viability and not create any negative impact on future recruitment.

A sad end to a team that had started from scratch in 2003 to be one game away from representing Wales in Europe. There were a number of players who remained loyal to the club over those years accumulating a high number of appearances including Amber Dean, Lyndsey Roger, Steph Taylor, Kate Edwards, Emma Roden and Jade Davies.

Three players who represented the club at that time returned to the squad in recent years and provide a link back to the successful team of the past. Del Morgan made her debut on 8th September 2013 in a Welsh Premier League game and, at the time of writing, is closing in on 100 first team appearances. Phoebe Davies (December 2013 debut) and Rebecca Pritchard (October 2014 debut) are the other two players from that era who have rejoined the club.

Back In Business

After two years of inactivity Wrexham AFC announced in May 2018 that a new women's team was being created and would be entering Division Two of the North Wales Women’s Football League. Penycae FC’s Afoneitha Road ground was secured for home matches and ex-Racecourse Community Foundation coach Luke Wynne was appointed manager.

Good progress was made in that first season and promotion was secured to Division One. The team also reached two cup finals. Rhyl Development were defeated 3-2 to secure the Division Two League Cup but a second trophy proved elusive as Wrexham lost to Amlwch Town in the final of the League’s Supplementary Cup.

The 2019/20 was far tougher and the club had lost all seven of their league games when the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed the season. By the time women’s football had restarted Wrexham had been taken over by Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds who expressed an intention to invest in the women’s team in addition to the men's team.

Welsh women’s football had been restructured for the new season and Wrexham started as founder members of the newly formed Adran North. With the team strengthened Wrexham pushed Llandudno all the way for the title which was eventually decided when the two sides met at Maesdu Park in March 2022. Despite Wrexham leading 2-1 at half-time, Llandudno scored two second half goals without reply to win the game and take the title.

After further recruitment over the summer of 2022, including the return of Phoebe Davies, Wrexham made no mistake in their second season in the Adran Premier. The team coasted to the title, winning all twelve of their league games and also had the satisfaction of knocking Welsh Premier League side The New Saints out of the Welsh Women’s FA Cup.

Winning the League set Wrexham up for a championship decider with the winners of the Adran South, Briton Ferry Llansawel. Victory would not only give bragging rights, but more importantly a place in the Adran Premier for the 2023/24 season. In a nervy game at Newtown’s Latham Park, Rebecca Pritchard scored the only goal and goalkeeper Del Morgan gave a player of the match performance as Wrexham secured promotion.

An apt ending to the story so far, with two players from the previous Wrexham Ladies side playing key roles in securing promotion to the Adran Premier.

Andy Mills & David Roberts (March 2024).

The women's game has historically been poorly documented and as a result there are still a number of gaps in our research.

Please keep checking back as we are uncovering new information on a regular basis.