However the small seed of enthusiasm took root and today the Association can boast over 1,200 players representing fifty teams competing in seven divisions. Top clubs in the Irish League, such as Cliftonville, Linfield and Glentoran proudly parade their ladies section, whilst the Northern Ireland international squad benefits from the growing talent that continuously springs from the League.
League action takes place throughout the summer, from April to September, and teams from all corners of Northern Ireland participate.
It all began with a meeting in the Post Office Youth Club, College Square, Belfast, November 26, 1976, where Mary McVeigh was elected as the first Chair. The meeting also discussed the formation of the league, its Constitution and rules as well as the recruitment of teams and players.
It was agreed that the League would take place during the summer under association football rules with the only exception being that matches would be trimmed to seventy minutes. However, this has been amended to ninety minutes, in line with all adult matches played under the auspices of the Irish Football Association.
An experimental format of three Divisions with six teams in each saw the big kick-off in 1977. It was considered more practical to reduce this to two divisions for the 1978 season.
In unending efforts to improve the League, officials are forever seeking ways to enhance the Association. Over the past eighteen months the current NIWFA committee has worked hard to develop the women’s game even more in Northern Ireland and has focused on, among other things, assisting clubs to improve their capacity.
The Committee has already organised a number of information days for clubs as well as a subsidised level one coaching course for coaches working with women’s teams. It has also looked at improving the organisation of league affairs and has appointed a fixtures and referee match secretary to ensure that fixtures are arranged well in advance and that they are also allocated match officials.
Recently the NIWFA appointed a designated child protection officer, Valarie Martin, to advise clubs on best practice and to ensure coaches and officials have received appropriate training and screening to work with young people.
It is worth pointing out that all of these posts, along with Committee, are filled on a voluntary basis and the work carried out by all the post holders is invaluable to women’s football.
The League Management Committee holds all rights to the NIWFA website, to the various domestic divisions – Premier, Championship, Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, Division 4 and Under 17.
Two years ago, in order to increase competition, interest and excitement in all divisions, the then current committee introduced promotion and relegation into all divisions.
The Premiership winners represent Northern Ireland in the UEFA Club Championships each year. In addition to the various divisional titles there are also divisional cups with the IFA also running an Irish Cup competition (currently sponsored by Coca Cola).
The Committee is constantly looking at ways to increase the profile of women’s football and just last season revamped the NIWFA website www.niwfa.org, introducing additional features such as leading scorers as well as advising clubs who would be refereeing their matches. The website was updated regularly with fixtures, scorers and league tables all being kept up to date. The League also received unprecedented media coverage with weekly reports in the News Letter and a host of regional newspapers. There were also regular items on the IFA’s official website.
This season the Committee will once again appoint an experienced print journalist to continue the excellent work to date of improving the image of the women’s game.
The Association would like to take the opportunity to thank past sponsors Davidsons Frudles and Euro Elecrtrix for all their support.
At junior level there are growing numbers of players with a majority of senior clubs who have expanding youth sections that they coach, develop and nurture. This is marvellous as it will ensure that there is a steady stream of young players entering the women’s game over the next few years.
In conjunction with the IFA there are a number of summer leagues for young players as well as Schools Leagues. This allows girls the opportunity to start playing football at a young age and provides a clear progression to a local Club and the opportunity to continue into the higher echelons of the game.
At international level various teams have made enormous strides over recent years. The senior side, under the guidance of manager Alfie Wylie, continues to improve its standing in World Football following many excellent performances.
Ladies soccer has grown beyond all recognition and crossed many boundaries. It is as competitive and exciting as the men’s game, packed with passion, talent, enthusiasm and dedication. The NIWFA will remain undaunted by the tasks ahead; strive to maintain its hard-earned reputation and looks to the future with renewed vigour and optimism.
At Junior level there are growing numbers of players with a majority of senior clubs have an expanding youth section that they coach, develop and nurture.
This will ensure that there is a steady stream of young players entering the women’s game over the next few years.
In conjunction with the IFA there are a number summer leagues for young players as well as Schools Leagues. This allows girls the opportunity to start playing football at a young age and provides a clear progression to a local Club and the opportunity to continue into the higher echelons of the game.
At international level the various teams have made enormous strides over the last few years.
The senior team, under manager Alfie Wylie, continues to improve its standing in World Football with some excellent performances and with the NIWFA organising ever more competitive divisions the signs for the future are very positive.