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The world's first female soccer photographer reflects on her journey

Hy Money football photographer
A screen grab from her interview with Palace TV (Image credit: Palace TV)

As the first female soccer photographer, Hy Money’s career didn’t have the easiest of starts. In the Seventies, soccer really was a “man’s game”, she was subject to sexist comments, treated unkindly, refused entry to Wembley and laughed at in Wimbledon Stadium. But even the lack of a women’s toilet at Selhurst Park (Crystal Palace’s home grounds) wasn’t going to stop Hy Money from making a name for herself.  

Hy Money never had much interest in the beautiful game. She received her first camera, a Kodak Box Brownie, from her Mum when she finished boarding school and moved to England. The purpose of the camera was so she could take photos of Buckingham Palace to send back to her mum in Bangalore, India, but Money used it to capture her children playing football.

• Read more: 22 pioneering women in photography (opens in new tab)

For her son Martin's sixth birthday, he wanted to go to Selhurst Park to see Crystal Palace play, so Money obliged and took along with her a Rolleiflex twin lens reflex film camera (opens in new tab). It was that day that changed the future of her career, and ignited a spark she didn't know existed. 

"It was like a new world had opened up to me, she recalls in an interview with Crystal Palace (opens in new tab). "It was just people and families and color and joy. The smell of hotdogs, people selling scarves and souvenirs. It was like i’d gone into this magical world I didn’t even  know existed."

Shortly afterwards she returned to Selhurst Park, camera in hand hoping to capture the action from the side of the pitch. Having already called several times to enquire about a press pass, the receptionist and then-manager Bert Head, halfheartedly agreed to stop her asking and Money made her way to the photographers' area.

To her shock and disappointment, she was met with sexist comments from men who said things like, “Hello, hello, hello, look what’s just walked in,” and, “What you got in your bag darling? Got your knitting with you? Brought your crochet?" She even remembers one man who barged into her, knocked her over and followed with, “Sorry sir I didn’t see you there.”

A few years later, Money attended Wembley for the first time as a photographer. Kenny Sansom, who played for Crystal Palace, was playing for the England squad and Money had been tasked with capturing photos for the local newspaper. As she approached the press area and presented her pass a man said to her, “Over my dead body mate,” followed by “Blimey it’s a bird, is there nowhere you women don’t want to stick your noses in?” 

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Money’s perseverance and determination paid off and she is now considered one of the pioneering women of sports photography. Her fellow male photographers walked by, despite the fact Money was pleading with her eyes to be let in. She spent the rest of the match outside the stadium, waiting in tears for it to finish. 

She went on to capture some of Crystal Palace's defining moments and shot some of the biggest names in showbiz, including Elton John and Sean Connery. Though she didn’t know it then, she was paving the way for women of the future and creating a space where female photographers would be more accepted. 

Her advice to women now is, “Know in your heart that you have the right. If you feel you have the right and are gifted and want to go somewhere and do something do not let the fact you’re female stop you. Those days have gone.”

Money has had to face some of the worst attitudes and acts of discrimination shown towards women, but her tenacity and passion for football photography trumped. It's stories like this that show just how far we've come, and it's women like that Money we have to thank for being so headstrong.

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Hannah Rooke
Hannah Rooke

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.