Today, Saturday 23rd March 2024, the Ipswich Town Women’s team played at Portman Road for the first time in history. Like many women’s teams, the tractor girls typically play their home matches in a smaller stadium (namely the AGL Arena in Felixstowe) on a Sunday at 2pm, since there is not enough demand for their games to make opening Portman Road regularly a viable option.

However, the women’s game is undeniably the fastest-growing sector of football, and clubs are beginning to become wise to this. After a ban lasting just under 50 years, women’s football has had to fight systemic sexism since 1970 to re-establish its status in the beautiful game: a feat which for a long time seemed almost impossible. Yet, when the Lionesses brought it home in the 2022 Women’s Euros on home turf, the visibility and support for women’s football has drastically increased, and clubs are all the better for it.

Since the women’s game has been receiving more and more attention, it was decided to trial a fixture at the Blues’ home grounds for the tractor girls – and over 10,000 spectators turned out for this historic event.

I was able to meet with a variety of fans before the clash against Chatham Town, and I asked them for their thoughts on today’s match. Many of them, like Jim Spirling (55), are already members or season ticket holders with the club, and its not a matter of who is playing but the badge they wear.

Though he has seen the England women play before, today was Jim’s first Ipswich Women’s game and he said that ‘if they’d have played here before [I] definitely would’ve come’. He’s a strong believer that the teams should be ‘on equal footing’, and hopes that todays match will help to generate interest and engagement for the tractor girls, something which is hard to build when they play out of town.

For many of the women I spoke to, there was an element of pride and importance in seeing a momentous occasion like this progress the fight against sexism by representing women’s football so visibly.

A group of mothers who wished to remain anonymous regularly watch the tractor girls at the AGL, and their daughters play competitively. They explained that Town’s women are ‘role models’ that their girls ‘look up to’, and though they are fans of the men’s team as well, its important for their children to have someone else ‘of their gender’ to aspire to, because it makes their dreams feel possible.

This sentiment was reflected by Rachel (47), who reminisced that ‘when I was at school, I couldn’t have played football, there was no women’s teams’ and she felt that by bringing the women’s team to Portman Road it had made the game much more accessible to watch, and that this might encourage clubs to make playing more accessible too.

All in all, the game was a roaring success with a clean 5-0 score to boot. It was incredible to see the ever-faithful Blue Army showing up to support our women too, and long may their legacy continue.