After a summer break (from reviewing, not reading), I’m pleased to continue the Reading the Game series with a look at A Woman’s Game by Suzanne Wrack. Only published in June, by Guardian Faber, this history of women’s football in the UK and beyond is timely and not just because of England’s victory last week in Euro 2022.
Drawing both on a lifelong passion for the sport and the contacts built up through her work writing about women’s football for The Guardian, Wrack was able to interview key figures in both the history of the game and the present. Historian Gail Newsham, FA powerbrokers Baroness Sue Campbell and Kelly Simmons, superstar players Megan Rapinoe and Ada Hegerberg, plus former US National Team coach Anson Dorrance and Olympique Lyonnais owner Jean-Michel Aulas are all quoted extensively. Their testimonies are blended with well-researched archive material plus the author’s own lived experiences to create a striking book.
Having played a (very) small role in the setting up of Ashford Town (Middlesex) Women FC, who have just been promoted to the FA Women’s National League and been involved in the running of the Middlesex Schools’ FA since 2010, I’m not an expert in women’s football by any means, but I have been involved in it for some time and helped to create opportunities for girls to play, especially at school, so I had high hopes for A Woman’s Game. I wasn’t disappointed.
This book tells the stories of the (arrested) development of women’s football, the game’s survival during the half century when it couldn’t be played on the grounds of FA-affiliated clubs (a ban mirrored in other countries), the resurrection of the sport from the early 1970s onwards and the modern era, where the FA is actively working to transform the women’s game.
In addition, like so many of my favourite books about football, A Woman’s Game describes the sport in a social context. As a result, Megan Rapinoe’s use of her platform as an internationally famous footballer to speak out on social issues, the Title IX regulations in the United States which supercharged the development of women’s football there and the importance of the #MeToo movement are all covered and their roles in raising the profile of the sport discussed.
Although clearly passionate about women’s football, Suzanne Wrack is no cheerleader; towards the end of the book, questions are raised as to whether the FA is the right body to help the sport reach its undoubted potential and their regular tinkering with the Women’s Football Pyramid comes in for criticism. However, this is balanced out by explanations of some of the changes given by those who drove them through, specifically Baroness Campbell and Kelly Simmons. Wrack also sets out suggestions for how the higher levels of women’s football might continue to grow commercially and in terms of driving attendances.
All this is done in an engaging and succinct way, drawing on Suzanne Wrack’s skill as a writer. A Woman’s Game is an entertaining and informative read which is accessible to football fans drawn to the women’s game by the Lionesses’ recent heroics, but there is still plenty to inform and entertain those who have been immersed in the sport for some time.
A Woman’s Game is a hugely enjoyable and interesting book and worth reading if you have been inspired – even just a little – by England’s first major open-age football title in 56 years. I can certainly recommend it.
I bought my copy from the When Saturday Comes shop, as part of their Euro 2022 bundle, which included a rather fetching T-Shirt (which I wore to mark Final Day), the as-yet unread Football She Wrote and a replacement copy of Issue 422, my subscription copy having been utterly destroyed by the boy and his penchant for pouring liquids, at speed, at every opportunity. If you’re not already subscribed to WSC, you should definitely consider it; as well as getting a magazine packed with great writing every month, you can also get discounts on books bought from the shop. What’s not to love? You can also get a copy from Stanchion, other online retailers and maybe your local indie bookshop too.