The question of women playing was to the forefront again in February 1970. The Board of Control had rejected an application from a team of women from Brighton who wished to take part. Their captain, Mrs Irene Poole said it was nonsense to suggest that the sight of women crouching in mini-skirts or trousers to flick the marbles would put the men players off. “Most women wear tights, so there would be no question of us revealing stocking tops and suspenders," she said. “In any case, the men should be concentrating on the game, not looking at our knees or bottoms!”
The team was made up of Mrs Poole and her daughter Beverley, Mrs Bravery, Mrs Leonard, Mrs Mansell, Mrs Havell and Miss Whitethread.
A Worthing women’s marbles team has described the ban on women players is ‘ridiculous.’ They were the Williams’ girls a team sponsored by the Worthing branch of the Royal Air Forces Association.
Mr Les Greenfield who has organised matches for them for five years, said “Our girls have played men’s teams and there has never been any embarrassment. They often wear mini-skirts, but no one has ever complained.”
It was bitterly cold this year, there was a north wind blowing across the marbles ring, but even this could not stop several hundred people watching the entertainment. The Local paper had the headline “Marbles wenches” the story was about the Brighton ladies, but the expected demonstration from them did not materials on the day. Ten teams played including the Town Hall Mad Hatter, Jaspers, Jets, Durrington (Typhoons) and the Terribles.
Playing like real champion the Terribles beat the Jets 25 – 10 it was the fourth time they had met in the finals. It seems this year 21 marbles were used in the individuals and not the usual 13 as other years, the result was Len Smith won 13 marbles to 8 winning his 9th title.
The organisers had received inquiries from Australia and Mexico, Len Smith said he would welcome an international challenge, but thought marble skills were an inborn talent. There were 200 red glass marbles sent from the Citroen car firm for the championship, but they were not used, as they did not arrive in time. They were flown into Heathrow at 1.30 p.m. on the day.
Seven teams played in 1971 including the Blue Beats, Johnson Jets and the Toucan Terribles. It was a very close final and for the fifth time a match between the Terribles and the Jets. The score line was 22 – 21 to the Terribles, the Jets missed and the Terribles then scored the three they needed to win – giving them their thirteen championship.
Len Smith beat Frank Butler from the Jets to win the individuals title for the tenth time. He also played a friendly match against Ben Gaynes an American from Connecticut beating him 23 marbles to 3. Ben said after the game that he had been used to using a bigger shooter than those used at Tinsley Green. Ben was then persuaded to present the prizes to the winning teams.
1972 was the first year that teams of women were allowed to play. The Board of control voted by one vote to let them play, it was said by some of the male players that it was publicity stunt by the Round Table, but this was denied by the organisers. Of the nine teams two were all female, the Prima Donnas from Crawley and the Kernockers who were the wives of the Blue Beats – policemen from London. It was said that the ladies took to long to take their shots, even the referee had to apply the time limit to the games they played.
In the semi-finals the Johnson Jets beat the Town Hall Mad Hatters and the Terribles beat Findon. The final saw the Terribles beat the Johnson Jets 25-12. There was a father and son final for the individuals Len Smith had an easy victory over his son Alan.
Mr Saunders chairman of the marbles board presented the prizes.
After the board let women play for the first time last years there had been uproar in the men’s marbles world. There were many complaints about their lack of skill and experience, which held up play. After a meeting of the board before the 1973 championships it was stated that the women’s claims were fully discussed by the board, but a majority rejected equal play. The reasons given were:
1. Marbles has historically been a game for male participation.
2. The game requires players to assume postures that are unbecoming to the female form, and distracting to both other competitors and spectators.
3. The 1972 Championship indicated that women were unable to make a competitive challenge and their continued presence might bring the skills of the game into disrepute.
The board did make a concession to both women and children that they could play on a side ring and have their own prize, if there was sufficient team entered before April 15th. Only one member of the board Mr Rajinder Sagoo was in favour of allowing women to play, he said there should be equal opportunities for both men and women.
Len Smith welcomed the ban on women and said, “Marbles was essentially a man’s game and women just could not have master it. If any woman could have played marbles it would have been my own daughter, but even she has never been any good at the game.”
BBC TV’s ‘Nationwide’ programme visited Len Smith to show him practising for the Good Friday championships. He was also interviewed by radio Brighton, talking about the event. On the Sunday before the championships he and his son Alan were on hand with members of the Round Table showing how the game should be played. He had a break of 43 marbles from the 49 in the ring, and then Alan achieved the near impossible knocking all 49 marbles from the ring in a single break.
On the day there were twelve teams including Shrubland Sharpshooter, the Mad Hatters, the Fudgers, Flickers. After the second round there were three teams in the semi-finals. The Terribles were given a bye to the final and the only semi-final was played between the Johnson Jets and the Rams, the Rams winning the match by 25 marbles to 20. In the final they lost to the Terribles 25 marbles to 16, this gave the Terribles their 17th Championship win.
For the individual championships the highest scorers in each team played off to see who would challenge Len Smith. The winner was J. Fairman of the Johnson Jets, who was beaten 13 marbles to nil by Len.
Les Greenfield organiser of the South of England Marbles Championship was the main tournament referee and Rodney Saunders chairman of the Crawley Round Table presented the prizes.
The 1974 championships should have been the biggest and the best ever, sponsored by Yellow Pages, with many teams playing. This year saw some controversy as to weather Tricia Ingrams of the Capital Radio teams Hot Pants should be allowed. In the end after an inspection by Board Members Paul Sagoo, Chris Ireland and Tony Dick she was given the OK as they were deemed to be short trousers and not a skirt. The game between the Toucan Terribles and Capital went out live on Air, with Toucan’s winning 25 marbles to 3.
All was going well until the rain got heaver and heaver, which left the rings as sticky as glue and completely unplayable. The man who made the decision to call off the matches was Les Greenfield, after a large cloudburst all the players unanimously accepted his decision.
The remaining games of the Championship were played on Sunday April 28. The Crawley Observer said “There were no surprises in the team championship at the resumed World Marbles Championships at the Greyhound, Tinsley Green on Sunday with the Toucan Terribles notching up their 18th consecutive win.”
This year it was Alan Smith who decided that he would show how to play the game. In the final against the Rams he went in to the ring and knocked out the required amount of 25 to win the game on his own. He also went on to win the individuals beating his father 13 marbles to nil. Alan said, “I have beaten the best player in the world, and he is still the best player in the world. There is nobody that can touch him.”
President of Crawley Round Table Dr Ian Nisbit presented the trophies and prizes.
In July there was an international match at the Greyhound. A four-man team the ‘Enquirer USA marbles team’ challenged the Toucan Terribels to a game. It was a hot sunny day the players from America were the current and the last three years National Champions from Wildwood New Jersey. It was the first ever defeat for the Terribles as the Enquirer team beat them, in three straight games. Miss Yellow Pages and Dr Ian Nisbit presented the prizes. Len Smith said that it was disappointing that there were so few people to watch such a skilful contest. The America team was Rick Mawhinney (1971), Ray Jarrell (1972), Doug Hager (1973) and Larry Kokos (1974). The Terribles were Len, Alan and Graham Smith, Jack and Charily Dempsey with Paddy Petticrew.