The magic of the Cup? Lewes seek equality

lewes women london bees james boyes cc

Supporter owned football club Lewes FC has this week sent an open letter to the board of The FA asking them to address the inequalities between the prize fund available in the men’s FA Cup and women’s FA Cup.

Lewes FC has been challenging convention in football ever since supporters took control of the club in 2010. The launch of Equality FC saw the women’s first team and men’s first teams funded equally.

At £250,000, the total prize fund for the Women’s FA Cup is less than 1% of that of the men’s competition, which stands at £30.25 million.

The open letter, which you can read in full here, asks the FA board to live up to its own statement of intent to distribute more of football’s money to the grassroots:

“To distribute more money to the grassroots, the FA introduced payments to the losing teams in the first two rounds of the men’s FA Cup, as well as to the winners. So now, this season, in the FA Cup Preliminary round, the losers of the men’s matches receive nearly three times as much prize money as the winners of the women’s matches at the same stage of the competition.

The total “prize” money paid to the losing men’s teams in the first two rounds of the FA Cup (the Extra Preliminary Round and the Preliminary Round) [£291,600] is more than the total prize money paid to all of the winning teams in the women’s FA Cup, in the whole competition up to and including the final [£252,350].”

The letter also challenges the FA’s model for the women’s game where the costs of progressing in the leagues are not simply dependent on making progress on the field. The payments expected by the FA far outstrip the resources of the smaller clubs.

“The incremental cost to an existing women’s club of stepping up to the FA Women’s Championship, for example, is a minimum of £100,000 per year (net of FA grants received). That’s a tiny sum for most men’s clubs, but completely unattainable for most women’s clubs. Not because of some static and universal law that women’s football attracts less attention and less revenue than men’s football, but as a result of decade upon decade of negligible resources being made available to the women’s game.”

Lewes face Millwall Lionesses this Sunday, 10th February in the fourth round of the Women’s FA Cup. Millwall Lionesses have had their own financial concerns about the direction of the women’s game. An away tie to either Liverpool or MK Dons in the fifth round awaits the winner with ties due to be played the week after on Sunday 17th February.

Thanks to James Boyes for the image used in this story, reproduced under Creative Commons licence.