Philip BarkerEmails from English Premier League head Richard Scudamore have been under fierce scrutiny amid allegations of a culture of sexism. The sporting archives across the world reveal women in sport have faced obstacles for well over a century.

"Women look their ugliest when playing sport" was not the headline you would expect in a publication which called itself the official magazine for the women's Amateur Athletic Association, the National Health Culture Association and the British Olympic Association.

The author was the American Paul Gallico, revered as a sports writer and later as a novelist. The year was 1938 and his article was published without comment in World Sport. It demonstrated just how far there was still to go to achieve sporting equality. "It is a ladies business to look beautiful", said Gallico, "and there are hardly any sports in which she seems able to do it."

Sport had been dominated by the men, although women did compete in the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, in tennis, golf and croquet. Women's swimming events were introduced at Stockholm in 1912 and admission to athletics came even later at Amsterdam in 1928. As a result, they established the Federation Sportive Feminine Internationale (International Women's Sport Federation) and started their own independent competitions.

This headline, published in World Sport in 1938, showed just how far there was to go to achieve sporting equality ©World SportThis headline, published in World Sport in 1938, showed just how far there was to go to achieve sporting equality ©World Sport

This, it seemed, encouraged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to act to bring women's sport into the fold and for the first time track and field events for women were staged at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. The races were over 100 and 800 metres.

It was said that after the women's 800m some fell to the ground, although later accounts from eyewitnesses suggest this might have been somewhat mischievous reporting. The women were no more distressed than the men had been after their races.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the man behind the revival of the Olympic Games, was a long standing opponent of female participation. He took his cue from the Ancient Games in Olympia. There, women were excluded from competition.

"Their role should be above all to crown the victors," said Coubertin

Baron Pierre de Coubertin opposed female participation in the Olympic Games ©Popperfoto/Getty ImagesBaron Pierre de Coubertin opposed female participation in the Olympic Games ©Popperfoto/Getty Images

"Reaction has been hostile to repeating the spectacle that the women's events provided during the ninth Olympiad [1928 ]," said Harold Abrahams, Olympic 100m champion at Paris 1924 and by now a journalistic observer. He suggested the "collapse" was a result of "more psychological than physical causes.

"Women are apt to break down for reasons not instantly clear to the masculine understanding," continued Abrahams, and he was one of the more liberal voices.  "He sees no reason why women should not continue to compete in the Olympic Games." The IOC agreed.

Dr Godfrey Dewey, organiser of the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, was another supporter of the inclusion of women, up to a point.

"In his view it was a mistake to have events for women in which endurance was a factor," reported the New York Times in 1931.

No race longer than 200m was included for women at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, nor at any Games before Rome 1960. (Not until Los Angeles 1984 was a women's marathon finally included.) There were some 1,900 competitors in Los Angeles, but only 202 were women.

The first women's marathon at an Olympic Games was held in Los Angeles 1984 ©Getty ImagesThe first women's marathon at an Olympic Games was held in Los Angeles 1984
©Getty Images

Although the athletic programme was reduced, Gallico did not feel it had gone far enough. "Females who run and jump in track meets are just wasting their time, and ours, because they can't run fast enough, jump high enough or throw things far enough to matter."

Nor did he confine his assault to athletics.

"Ladies have no business playing squash," he wrote, and he was as withering about other racquet sports. "Ladies think they look beautiful and graceful playing tennis, but they do not. And the "hippity- skippity" sort of jig they do from side to side to cover court is just about as elegant as a giraffe in a great hurry."

Team games fared no better. "If girls played basketball under men's rules, they would be taken away on stretchers after five minutes."

Gallico's diatribe was extreme but many others were quietly in agreement with his ideas. Not until the sixties did any of the international sports federations elect a woman as President when archery installed Mrs Inger Frith as their leader.

In 1981 the IOC finally included women members for the first time. One of the earliest was Dame Mary Glen-Haig, a fencer. Her sport had received a barrage from Gallico. "Fencing calls for the most absurd and unflattering posture in which a female could be asked to twist herself," he said.

At least the IOC did not agree with Gallico's assessment on this matter. Women's fencing had been included in the Olympic programme since 1924, though some sports took longer to make the breakthrough.

Women's hockey did not become part of the programme until Moscow 1980. Soccer for women did not make an appearance until Atlanta 1996, the centenary of the modern Games.

It was small wonder. With the words: "The game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged." Women had once been banned from taking part by the Football Association itself!

Born in Hackney, a stone's throw from the 2012 Olympic Stadium, Philip Barker has worked as a television journalist for 25 years. He began his career with Trans World Sport, then as a reporter for Skysports News and the ITV breakfast programme. A regular Olympic pundit on BBC Radio, Sky News and Talksport, he is associate editor of the Journal of Olympic History, has lectured at the National Olympic Academy and contributed extensively to Team GB publications. To follow him on Twitter click here.