1984 European Competition for Women's Football Final (partially lost footage of international football matches; 1984)
The 1984 European Competition for Women's Football Final culminated the inaugural tournament of what eventually became the UEFA Women's European Championship. Contested by Sweden and England, it was played over two legs. The first occurred on 12th May in front of 5,662 at the Ullevi, with Sweden winning 1-0. The second leg commenced on 27th May with 2,567 present at Kenilworth Road, this time seeing England win with the same result. This necessitated a penalty shootout that Sweden won 4-3 to claim its first major championship.
The 1984 European Competition for Women's Football was not the first women's European football competition. Previously, two unofficial European Competition for Women's Football tournaments were both held in Italy in 1969 and 1979. While not UEFA-sanctioned, the competitions did accelerate the European football governing body's recognition that international women's football should be taken seriously. After protracted discussions starting from November 1970, consensus emerged in February 1980 that a UEFA Women's European Championship was now viable. In December 1981, UEFA received 16 entries; while this was not enough for UEFA to declare it a full championship, the number of applications was still seemingly higher than expected. The teams were split into four groups of four, with the tournament's qualifying stage beginning in August 1982. A few key differences compared to the men's game were noted, including only having 35-minute halves, while also playing with a smaller size four football rather than size five.
Sweden were placed in the "North" group, consisting of fellow Nordic countries Finland, Iceland, and Norway. Sweden won every home and away game to qualify for the Semi-Finals. England likewise achieved a 100% record in a group featuring the Republic of Ireland, as well as fellow Home Nations teams Northern Ireland and Scotland. They along with the other group winners Denmark and Italy would compete in the Semi-Finals, held in April 1984. Instead of having a dedicated host, games would instead be played over two legs, guaranteeing each team had a home and away fixture. Sweden came from behind twice to beat Italy 3-2 in Rome on 8th April. They then beat the Italians 2-1 at the Folkungavallen to win 5-3 on aggregate and thus qualify for the Final. Meanwhile, England beat 1979 champions Denmark 2-1 at home, before a second leg 1-0 victory ensured a 3-1 aggregate win. Neither finalist had ever reached the Final before, though Sweden did edge out England in 1979 for third place via a 4-3 penalty shootout win. England had never previously beaten Sweden in six encounters.
The two Final legs played on 12th and 27th May respectively represented a sharp contrast in how Swedish and English football historically treated the women's game. The 12th May game was hosted at Sweden's Ullevi, which previously hosted the 1958 FIFA World Cup. Occurring on a well-maintained pitch, the encounter also received extensive coverage from the Swedish press, with Sveriges Television (SVT) additionally providing a full live broadcast harnessing commentary from Bengt Grive. The match's organisation ultimately received high praise from both sides looking to deliver in front of a large crowd.
The opposite could be said for the second leg held on 27th May. Historically, women were forbidden from playing on Football League grounds from 1921 to 1971 by the English FA. But while the ban had been lifted for over ten years, most Football League teams were still reluctant to let the women's teams host games on their grounds, with none of the large London sides granting permission to host the second leg. Thus, the second leg was played at Kenilworth Road in Luton. Not only was the pitch poorly maintained, constant downpour from the night prior until up to kick-off resulted in the players having to make do with an extremely muddy ground. The English press mostly ignored the game, while the BBC and ITV opted not to provide any coverage. Still, the match was actually filmed, courtesy of Leeds-based cable television company Telvista. Alas, outside of a few mentions in newspapers like The Telegraph and The Guardian, hardly any media attention was given to the encounter.
Overall, the competition drew around 20,000 fans, encouraging UEFA to host future tournaments. By the 1991 edition, enough teams entered for it and future competitions to officially receive the "UEFA Women's European Championship" moniker. Over time, the Women's Euros has become a significantly larger event, with investment and coverage increasing to compensate. As noted by 1984 England player Carol Thomas, the attention, recognition, and overall treatment of the women's game in England has dramatically changed. When England hosted Euro 2022 for instance, 574,865 attended overall, with the Final attracting a European Championship record of 87,192 at Wembley Stadium while being televised live by the BBC to over 17 million.
The first leg commenced on 12th May at the Ullevi, with a reported 5,662 present. Women's Football Archive questioned this attendance, deeming that it may have been considerably higher since the 50,000+ stadium appeared packed on the day. England entered the encounter with an unchanged line-up from its Denmark win. Despite this, Sweden, primarily thanks to Anna Svenjeby, generally controlled proceedings and demonstrated this with several chances in the first half. In particular, Lena Videkull's shot after 18 minutes was denied only by the post, with Pia Sundhage's subsequent chance saved by Terry Wiseman. Wiseman then courted controversy by saving a Sundhage when she was outside the penalty box. While conceding a free-kick, she received no yellow card. The Lionesses' Linda Curl picked up a knock following a harsh challenge but was able to continue at less than 100%.
Still, the second half proved more dominant for the hosts, with Wiseman forced to save headers from Sundhage and Lena Videkull, before dramatically stopping a one-on-one opportunity by the former after 49 minutes. England's chances were few, but Debbie Bampton, courtesy of a pass from Curl, nearly broke the deadlock 51 minutes in only for the shot to end up going wide. Ultimately, after further pressurising for that opening goal, Sundhage capitalised on an Angelica Burevik cross to head the ball into the net 57 minutes in. With England generally outmatched, Sundhage nearly doubled Sweden's lead after 86 minutes when a shot of hers was deflected by the far post. Sweden took a dominant 1-0 victory, though most analysts, including from both teams, believed the hosts should have won by a bigger margin. England manager Martin Reagan accepted the defeat, though insisted his team were playing at 100%. Meanwhile, Sundhage noted the extent of missed opportunities by her team to essentially secure the title and promised that "We won't miss that many chances for two games in a row".
The 27th May encounter occurred in front of 2,567 at Kenilworth Road, beating the WFA's projections of a mere three-figure gate. Despite the constant downpour ruining the pitch's quality, postponing the game was simply not an option. Thus, the game was nicknamed the "Battle of Kenilworth Bog", with the conditions slightly benefitting the hosts as they had frequently played on low-quality grounds, unlike their Swede counterparts. Considering they were chasing the game, England started aggressively with Kerry Davis and Pat Chapman credited for outpacing the Swedish midfield and defence. After 31 minutes, Liz Deighan passed towards Curl, who in turn redirected possession to Carol Thomas. Thomas, in part thanks to two strong tackles, ensured the ball reached Curl in a dangerous area. Curl capitalised with a shot hitting the far corner of the net, levelling the game. England further troubled Sweden for the remaining minutes of the first half ceased.
In the second-half, Curl and Davis led the early England charge, though Sweden goalkeeper Elisabeth Leidinge confidently prevented a second goal. As the conditions worsened even further overtime, Sweden began a comeback, Sundhage capitalising on a free-kick with a 35-yard strike narrowly missing the near post. With England's defenders losing confidence, Sweden tried for a last-grasp goal, gaining a few later corners that prompted four saves from Wiseman. Eva Andersson nearly won it from the team with a shot rebounding off the post after 86 minutes. Alas, the game ended 1-0 for England. No extra-time was incorporated in this tournament, meaning the title was instead decided by a penalty shootout. Curl's opening strike was saved by Leidinge, with Anette Börjesson scoring to give Sweden a 1-0 lead. Angela Allimore, Andersson, and Deborah Bampton all converted, but Helen Johansson's strike was saved by Wiseman. Alas, England ended up behind again as a miskick from Lorraine Hanson was saved by Leidinge. Ann Jansson scored for Sweden, requiring Davis to convert or have the opposition claim victory. She converted hers, thus placing pressure on Sundhage to score or face sudden death. Sundhage retained her composure, forcing Wiseman the wrong way to secure a 4-3 penalty shootout win for her nation.
For Sweden, winning the competition marked their first major championship victory. Since then, the team has finished runners-up in the 1987, 1995, and 2001 Euros. England meanwhile lost in the Euro 2009 Final to Germany, before avenging that loss in 2022 and gaining their first major championship in the process. Some sources indicate that England's penalty shootout loss in 1984 was the beginning of the nation's penalty curse, with both the women's and men's senior teams losing several key World Cup and European Championship games in this fashion.
The first leg, fully televised by SVT, was widely publicly distributed and can now be viewed on YouTube. However, the lack of national coverage affected the second leg's preservation. The only currently available coverage originates from a 21-minute Associated Press video providing some match highlights, the penalty shootout, and post-match celebrations. The video is noted for its quality issues and low sound. Additionally, the 2013 SVT documentary Den Andra Sporten also contains brief highlights. Aside from this, various photos of the game can be found online.
However, it is known that Telvista filmed the game. Telvista originated in Leeds in the 1980s, primarily focusing on recording matches featuring Leeds United. The company went bankrupt in the mid-1980s, and though it never wiped its recordings, its entire U-Matic 3/4” master tape library was sold on by administrators during its receivership. Thus, publicly available Telvista coverage of any kind is exceptionally rare. The whereabouts of Telvista's 1984 European Competition for Women's Football Final broadcast currently remains unknown.
- Football Makes History summarising the start and growth of the UEFA Women's European Championship, and noting the two unofficial tournaments in 1969 and 1979. Retrieved 5th May '23
- UEFA summarising the tournament from the qualifying stages to the Final. Retrieved 5th May '23
- RSSSF detailing the 1979 European Competition for Women's Football results. Retrieved 5th May '23
- UEFA detailing the birth of the Women's European Championship. Retrieved 5th May '23
- Daily Mail detailing England's run in the tournament, differences between the first and second leg, and noting most second leg coverage is lost. Retrieved 5th May '23
- RSSSF detailing the results of the tournament. Retrieved 5th May '23
- The Telegraph summarising the history of the tournament, and its limited coverage of the 1984 edition. Retrieved 5th May '23
- BBC Sport contrasting the differences in both 1984 Final legs, and how much has changed by 2022. Retrieved 5th May '23
- Women's Football Archive detailing the prelude to the first leg. Retrieved 5th May '23
- Women's Football Archive detailing the prelude towards the second leg, the match itself. and noting Telvista filmed the encounter. Retrieved 5th May '23
- The FA summarising its ban on women playing on Football League grounds, and the 1984 Final. Retrieved 5th May '23
- Forbes detailing the success of UEFA Women's Euro 2022. Retrieved 5th May '23
- The Guardian detailing Euro 2022's ratings success. Retrieved 5th May '23
- World Football detailing the result of the first leg. Retrieved 5th May '23
- Women's Football Archive detailing the first leg. Retrieved 5th May '23
- World Football detailing the result of the second leg. Retrieved 5th May '23
- The Telegraph providing a retrospective report on the second leg. Retrieved 5th May '23
- Svensk Fotboll listing the international honours the women's team has received. Retrieved 5th May '23
- 90 Min listing all Euro Finals prior to 2022. Retrieved 5th May '23
- The Guardian reporting on England becoming Euro 2022 champions. Retrieved 5th May '23
- The Guardian citing the Final as the beginning of England's penalty curse. Retrieved 5th May '23
- The Guardian providing photos of the second leg. Retrieved 5th May '23
- Twitter discussion regarding Telvista and the fate of its tape library. Retrieved 5th May '23