Bedford's ‘Lost Lionesses’ commemorated for trailblazing women’s football more than 50 years after playing in World Cup

They played in front of 90,000 fans, before returning home to complete anonymity
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Trailblazing women from the Bedford area who paved the way for women’s football been honoured with bespoke caps designed by fans.

Jan Emms from Bedford, Chris Lockwood from Silsoe and Leah Caleb from Ravensdon were among the 1971 England Women’s Team, known as the ‘Lost Lionesses’.

Last night the women were presented with upcycled caps and a hand-crafted Mitre football to commemorate being pioneers of women’s football at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

The Lost Lionesses and Harry's son Keith Batt. Image submitted.The Lost Lionesses and Harry's son Keith Batt. Image submitted.
The Lost Lionesses and Harry's son Keith Batt. Image submitted.

The team, managed by the late Harry Batt, travelled to Mexico for a World Cup in 1971 - launching them to fame and stardom as they played in front of crowds of up to 90,000.

With women’s football still banned at the time, on their return to England the players, and Harry, were banned from playing football, some never to play again.

To commemorate their success and popularity, and their role in breaking the boundaries for today’s women’s game to flourish, a collection of memorabilia has been created from upcyled materials donated and designed by fans and fellow footballing women.

Designer Sophie Hird created the 14 bespoke England caps to present to the team.

Each cap is inspired by a woman that played after the 71 team, signified by the specific shirt, their name and number, and defined into a specific game.

Project lead Craig Stronach said: “It’s with great pride that we launch this fan led initiative, that truly celebrates and gives back to the trailblazers of 1971. We wanted to create something which recognised the team’s courage and contribution to women’s football, but ultimately puts fans at the heart of it. It’s been so inspiring to work with the creative designers and with Mitre, who have shared the same level of passion as me for this project and which comes through in these truly unique pieces.”

Sports brand Mitre commissioned football designer Jon-Paul Wheatley to create a hand-crafted football using upcycled Mitre footballs donated by fans and players over the last 30 years.

The piece was created as a gift to the family of Harry Batt, the man who led the team, among other women’s teams, to compete globally. It will be presented in a box and given to the family to finally mark achievements of the 1971 world event.

Simon Breckon, Mitre Brand Director adds: “The Mitre brand is built on rich heritage and craftsmanship for over 100 years, and we’re extremely proud of our roots in football and in the

community. We actively support all those with a real love of the game, and we feel the Lost Lionesses epitomises this.

“Celebrating fan culture is in our DNA. Now more than ever is a time for fans old and new to get behind women’s football being therein the key moments and making history.”

The presentation included a round table discussion with current players about the experiences Women faced in 71, in comparison to today’s game. The discussion acknowledged the great progress the Women’s game has taken, but the work that still needs to be done to create greater opportunities for young talent.

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