Women's FA Cup Final programme

The Women’s FA Cup is the longest-established national competition for women’s football in England. The competition was founded in 1970 as the Mitre Challenge Trophy. The first winners were Southampton, who beat the Scottish team Stewarton Thistle 4-1 at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, in London.

The competition grew in stature and, in 1982, the final was staged at a men’s Football League venue for the first time. In the match at QPR’s Loftus Road ground, Lowestoft defeated Cleveland Spartans 2-0.

Seven years later, Manchester United’s Old Trafford Stadium hosted the nineteenth Women’s FA Cup Final. The finalists were Leasowe Pacific from Merseyside and Friends of Fulham, both prominent clubs of the era. Leasowe Pacific, in particular, was well-known across the Trafford-area, not only for their games with FC Redstar but also others in the North-West Women’s Regional Football League throughout the late 1980s.

Redstar’s Jane Morley remembers: ‘Leasowe were one of the strongest clubs in the north-west, probably the strongest. They were our equivalent of Doncaster Belles I guess and when you played Leasowe you knew you were in a game.’

Leasowe player and Secretary Jill Salisbury has been interviewed as part of Trafford’s ongoing oral history project, which captured her memories of the 1989 final. She is rightly proud of everything her club achieved: ‘We had reached the WFA Cup final in 1988 but had lost to Doncaster Belles at Crewe which, for a fairly young club was in itself an achievement but getting there for a second final the year after takes it to another level.’

Sadly, the 1989 women’s final was scheduled to be played a week after the Hillsborough disaster and several Leasowe players had been supporting Liverpool at the men’s semi-final that day, including Jill. The whole question of whether the women’s final should go ahead was debated at length: ‘It was an extremely difficult period and we just did not know if we could go ahead. Fulham understood and they said they would support us in whatever decision we took.’

Inevitably the game did go ahead, but it was a highly emotional day. Black armbands were worn and a minute’s silence was held before the game commenced. Simply taking to the field was a significant ordeal.

The final saw Leasowe take the lead in the seventh minute, when Jan Murray scored from a low cross. A minute later, the future England manager Hope Powell equalised for Fulham and later she scored the London club’s second to give them a 2-1 lead by half-time.

In the second half, goals from Louise Thomas and Joy McGuiggan gave Leasowe victory and the cup.

The following day, match highlights were shown on Channel 4 and, according to some sources, attracted a television audience of almost two million. With a high-profile venue and television coverage the competition was certainly of major significance. As for Leasowe, the club continued to find success within league football before becoming Everton Ladies in 1995. As Everton, the club won the Women’s FA Cup in 2010 to add to their 1989 success.