The Wales football team that was paid in bath salts and eggs after players flouted 50-year ban

  • ITV Wales' Carole Green reports.

Pioneers who flouted the widespread ban on women's football which lasted 50 years have been hailed as "modern-day suffragettes" who paved the way for the sport's progress today.

Wales Women are about to embark on a fresh bid to qualify for a first major women's football tournament, with backing from the Football Association of Wales which now extends to equal pay for international appearances.

But it wasn't always this way.

Women in Wales and England were prevented from playing football for half a century.

At the end of the First World War, women's football was attracting crowds of more than 50,000, but in 1921 England's FA decided football was "quite unsuitable for females" and it was banned, with the FAW following suit.

Wales Women ahead of a match against the Republic of Ireland in Limerick in 1973/74.

The rule prohibited women from playing football at any ground or stadium affiliated with the FAW, making matches extremely difficult to organise, and it would not be lifted for 50 years - being reversed in the 1970s, with the FAW officially recognising the national women's football team in the early 1990s.

But some carried on to play in the face of the restrictions.

Mai Griffith and Dianne Totty were both part of the first ever Wales Women fixture in 1973 and had previously turned out for Prestatyn Ladies.

The pair battled adversity in response to the matches they arranged and would later go on to be paid in eggs and soap for playing for their country.

Looking back through old photos and newspapers clippings, Mai Griffith said: "We did face a lot of opposition. In the albums there's a lot reports from certain quarters saying women shouldn't play football.

"The more I saw those reports, the more matches I booked for us to play. We just love the game and we couldn't understand why women weren't allowed to play."

Dianne Totty said: "We couldn't play on decent grounds and that sort of thing.

"Some officials were actually told that if they refereed us or helped in any way they would be banned from playing football.

"But it didn't stop us."

Wales captain Sophie Ingle has praised the pioneers of the women's game, saying the side wouldn't be where they are now without those who came before them.

Wales skipper Sophie Ingle spoke with Mai Griffith and Dianne Totty at Wrexham's STōk Cae Ras. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The skipper told ITV Wales: "It's crazy to hear stories like that because they had to pay to go on Welsh camp which is insane, really. We've never had to do that.

"We're lucky enough to be paid to play but it's not about that, it's about representing your country.

"It's the proudest thing you'll ever do and they're so proud that they got to do that 50 years ago.

"Over the last few years with our national team, we've come up with a slogan: 'for us, for them, for her'.

"'For us' is obviously about us and playing for ourselves but 'for them' is about the people who have come before us to push these things and make sure the game is in a better place than what they had.

"I think that's really important for the national team right now, and for the little girls and boys to know that."

Wales will kick-start their Women's Euro 2025 qualifying campaign in a match against Croatia on Friday, 5 April.

The game will be Rhian Wilkinson’s first game in charge since being appointed head coach in February.

Wilkinson's side will face Croatia at the STōK Cae Ras in Wrexham, with kick-off at 7.15pm.

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