1983 WFA Cup Final (lost footage of football match; 1983)

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Programme for the Final.

Status: Lost

The 1983 WFA Cup Final culminated the 1982-83 WFA Cup season. Occurring on 8th May 1983 in front of around 1,500 at Sincil Bank, it saw Doncaster Belles defeat St Helens 3-2 to claim its first WFA Cup, while also kickstarting a dominant era for the Belles that lasted throughout the 1980s and into the early-2000s.


Defending champions Lowestoft were knocked out in the Fourth Round, losing 7-0 to Warminster.[1][2] In contrast, Doncaster Belles' road to the Final consisted of it overcoming Wythenshawe, Sheffield, CP Doncaster, Spurs, 1982 runners-up Cleveland Spartans, and Friends of Fulham.[1] At this point, the Belles had never reached the Final since its formation in 1969.[3][4][2] Meanwhile, St Helens defeated Broadoak, Corinthians, Kirkby Sports Centre, Shelburne, Warminster, and Preston Rangers to reach this stage for the third time.[1][2][4] Previously, St Helens won the 1980 WFA Cup by beating Preston North End 1-0, before losing the subsequent Final 4-2 to Southampton.[2][4] As a result of their previous success, St Helens were declared the favourites heading into the 1983 Final.[4] For this Final, the Women's Football Association (WFA) agreed a deal with Lincoln City to host the match at Sincil Bank.[5][4]

The Final received television coverage courtesy of YTV's Calendar and a more prominent report by the BBC's fledgling Breakfast Time, which went on-air in January that same year.[6][7][4] Outside of providing match footage, BBC cameras were also present in the Belles' dressing room, showcasing the positive spirits heading into the game, and a half-time pep talk from injured goalkeeper Janet Milner too.[4] However, the Breakfast Time report also reflected the-then rather uncomfortable mainstream views of women's football. Particularly, during a debate between presenters Frank Brough, Bob Wilson, and Selina Scott, Brough openly questioned whether women should be competing in football or any other physical contact sport. Wilson somewhat agreed, but joked "Where were the interviews in the bath?". Scott and guest Judy Geeson defended women's football as progressive for society, with Geeson claiming Brough and Wilson should not "have any right to claim football for your sex".[4] While sexism most certainly remains a heated topic in the sport, the mainstream's stance on women's football would naturally change over time as its appeal and investment increased.[8]

The Match

The Final itself occurred on 8th May at Sincil Bank, with 1,500 reportedly in attendance.[4][5] Belles Captain Shelia Stocks put her team in front after seven minutes, after her shot hit the left post only to rebound into the St Helens goal.[4][5] However, striker Alison Leatherbarrow, assisted by twins Janet and Judith Turner, helped ensure the 1980 champions equalised, Leatherbarrow having delivered a strike outside the box.[4][5]

Following a half-time pep talk by Milner, Doncaster soon restored their lead thanks to a 55th-minute Stocks goal.[4][5] It was soon 3-1 after Jill Hanson produced a long-range right-foot shot, which defeated St Helens goalkeeper Ann Harkins.[4][5] But just as it appeared Belles would control proceedings from there, a late free-kick from Liz Deighan pulled one back for St Helens.[4][5] Despite facing intense pressure near the end, Doncaster held on to win 3-2 and earn their first of many WFA Cups.[4][5] Stocks led extensive celebrations, claiming her team's performance was "Brilliant from whistle to whistle".[4] Apparently, the trophy the Belles lifted was damaged during said celebrations, forcing the WFA to cover expenses via insurance.[4]

The Belles would become among England's top women's football teams.[3][4][2] This included winning the 1987, 1988, 1990, 1992, and 1994 Finals, as well as finishing runners-up in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1991, 1993, 2000, and 2002.[2][3] The 1987 victory saw the Belles beat none other than St Helens 2-0.[2] This marked St Helens' last appearance in the Final.[9][2] In September 2006, the club officially disbanded, in part thanks to a fire engulfing their clubhouse in Garswood.[10]


The match received some highlights broadcast on Calendar and Breakfast Time.[4] Oddly, television cameras for the latter programme only provided footage of the first-half goals, making it unclear if the remaining three strikes were ever recorded.[4] Alas, whereas the footage is known to remain within the BBC's archive, a public release has not emerged.[4] Even if the broadcast were to publicly resurface, the uncut tape would still remain as lost media.

See Also