England women soccer stars are heading to Preston

Former England womens footballers Rachel Brown-Finnis and Sue Smith.
Former England womens footballers Rachel Brown-Finnis and Sue Smith.

Preston is preparing to host a soccer spectacular with a difference.

Two of England’s longest serving footballers are among the guest speakers at a women’s football conference at the University of Central Lancashire.

Sue Smith and Rachel Brown-Finnis, who have 175 caps for their country between them, will take part in a panel discussion as part of the Women’s Football 2020 – A Field of Dreams conference.

Former Leeds United and Doncaster Rovers Belles attacker Sue and former Liverpool and Everton goalkeeper Rachel, now television pundits on BBC and Sky Sports, will be joined by a host of experts including senior staff from the FA and Preston woman Gail Newsham, the world’s leading expert on the famous Dick, Kerr Ladies.

The event at UCLan’s Preston campus on May 27 and 28 May, is being organised by the UCLan Dick, Kerr Ladies Centre for Women’s Football Studies.

It will include a world premier historical installation and exhibition of Dick, Kerr Ladies memorabilia , including exclusive and previously unheard stories from the players involved in the women’s game from 1917 to 1965.

There will also be a first screening of Muslim Sports Woman of the Year 2019 Zuleikha Chikh and Preston North End Women’s Team junior player Lily Huskisson’s road trip around the UK, exploring the origins of the game, and uncovering the ‘hidden’ history, with some real surprises.

Gail Newsham, joint-lead of the conference, said I am delighted to be part of this unique conference, there is something here for everyone. It is so important to inform others of our rich history and keep alive the legacy of the Dick, Kerr Ladies.”

UCLan’s Professor Alethea Melling MBE, who is also joint-lead , said: "The purpose of the conference is to connect the past to the present and provide a platform for shaping the future.

"It will be of interest to anyone involved in the playing, coaching, and organisation of the women’s game, as well as those exploring the history of Women’s Football. We will be placing a strong emphasis on the engagement and development of young people, who will be invited to share their ideas and experiences.”

Coaching masterclasses will also take place during the two-day event, with special rates for volunteers, students and coaches. Stands and posters from organisations and clubs with an interest in the game will be welcome.

To book tickets visit https://www.uclan.ac.uk/venue-hire/a-field-of-dreams-2020.php

All proceeds from the conference will go to the UCLan Dick, Kerr Ladies Centre for Women’s Football Studies to focus research on inclusion and help fund junior researchers, who face financial restrictions, in contributing valuable insights into barriers faced within the women’s game.