AN APPRECIATION BY...
After formally establishing the WSF with fellow academics, Celia turned her considerable energies to making the foundation ‘live’ as a national organisation that effectively could promote equalities, participation and equal opportunities for all women involved in sport.
Louise Jacklin, who worked with Celia in WSF’s early days
As Chair of WSF from 1984 to 1988, and with her formidable networking skills, Celia successfully drew together support and active involvement across the country from women variously engaged with sport – in coaching, journalism, local authorities, elite performance, minority and non-traditional sports, disability access and grass roots sports development. The driving issue for WSF, which reflected Celia’s enduring vision, was to achieve equality for all women within the whole arena of sport. At this time, when significant inequality and discrimination existed as the norm, this was a very ambitious agenda. However, Celia was never a woman afraid to confront and tackle the big issues.
Celia operated through her network to establish an office for WSF in 1986, securing grant aid from the Sports Council, paid staff, and accommodation at the Women’s Centre, funded by Camden Council. This provided a centralised resource for WSF to co-ordinate its growing activities and membership, and to vigorously promote the equalities agenda. Although administration centred in London, Celia was continuously active on the national scene, pressing for change through the media and challenging the status quo held by governing bodies of sport. Under her inspiring leadership WSF developed a lead role, through its network vitality, to provide a shared voice and avenue for contesting the barriers to women’s opportunities.
Celia passed on the baton of WSF Chair to Anita White in 1988, but remained very active in her support of the foundation. Anita extended the work and profile of WSF, securing its formal recognition by the Sports Council as a national voluntary organisation.
Much was achieved in those early days of WSF. Although the landscape today is very different, with many more opportunities open to, and filled by women as leaders, participants, athletes, coaches and administrators, there are still lingering barriers to dismantle and discrimination to eradicate.
Celia truly deserves the appellation, Cometh the hour, cometh the woman, for her work and commitment to the nascent WSF, and to women and girls who love sport. Hopefully she won’t mind that this (slightly altered) term originated from men’s cricket, some decades before women were allowed to enter the Long Room at Lords.