Football's Pioneers: Hope Powell
Powell is a true pioneer of British football. As a player, she was part of the England squad that qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time in 1995. Three years later, she became the first black and the first female manager of any England national team. She coached England for 15 years, steering the team to four UEFA European Championships and two FIFA World Cup tournaments. Hope also managed the Great Britain team at the 2012 London Olympics.
Powell was born in South London in 1966. Although a talented player from an early age, she was banned from playing for her school team according to FA rules, which prohibited mixed football beyond the age of 11. She then joined Millwall Lionesses, eventually completing 11 seasons over two spells with the South London club. She won her first FA Cup Final with Millwall in 1991, also reaching the showpiece with Friends of Fulham in 1989 and Croydon in 1998. With Powell as captain, Croydon won the league and cup double in 1995/96.
In action for England during her 20-year playing career.
Selected first for England in 1983 at the age of 16, Powell went on to play 66 times for her country and scored 35 goals as an attacking midfielder.
As England manager, Powell inherited a team ‘in fast decline’ and close to being demoted to the ‘B’ level of the women’s game, which would have prevented them qualifying for major tournaments. She then guided England to the UEFA European Championship finals in 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013 and the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup in 2007 and 2011. The most significant moment was in 2009 in Finland, when England lost in the final to Germany, one of the powerhouses of the women’s game.
Equally important was Powell’s role in helping to establish an effective structure for elite women’s football, from Under-15s to Under-23s. She was instrumental to persuading the FA to agree to a central contract scheme that would help players focus on training and playing free from full-time jobs. In her dealings with the authorities, Powell felt she was constantly ‘fighting’ for women’s football: “It was tough. I was female and black. The decision-makers? White. Male. And middle-class,” she said.
Hope Powell also managed Team GB at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Over time, Powell’s achievements have been recognised. She was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2003 and was appointed OBE in 2002 and CBE in 2010. Departing as England manager in 2013 after a disappointing UEFA European Championship campaign, Hope has managed Brighton & Hove Albion women’s team since 2017.
For more information about sports history at DMU visit www.dmu.ac.uk/sportshistory.
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