By Reece Chambers
Lewes FC have submitted an open letter to the Football Association for an explanation surrounding the disparity between prize money in the male and female formats of the FA Cup.
Back in 2017, Lewes FC became the first professional or semi-professional football club to pay their male and female teams the same salaries.
Branded as ‘Equality FC’ on the Club’s official website, Lewes FC are the only women’s team to be paid the same amount as their male counterparts.
In their latest bid to level out the inequalities between male and female sport, the East Sussex football club have written an open letter to the FA Board.
To accompany the lengthy letter that addresses FA Chairman Greg Clarke and his Board of Directors, Lewes FC attached a YouTube video titled ‘FACupPrizeGap’ which comprises of Lewes Women FC midfielder Shannon Moloney highlighting the disparities between financial rewards in male and female sport.
Throughout the open letter, Lewes FC’s Board of Directors show a clear frustration with the astronomical gap between prize money in the FA Cup. As shown below, the FA Cup appears to be one of the most unfairly rewarding sporting competitions.
This year, the total FA Cup prize fund for men’s teams is a hefty £30.25 million whilst the total FA Cup prize fund for women’s teams is a mere £250,000. Therefore, the total prize money for women is less than 1 per cent of the total prize money for men which shows a very poor.
In what is undoubtedly Britain’s most popular sport with over 11 million frequent players, the FA has a social responsibility to encourage gender equality on and off the football pitch.
As a result, with the women’s FA Cup winners rewarded with less than 1 per cent of their male counterparts, there are real and serious questions that must be answered with regard to the Football Association’s rewarding structure.
One of the most interesting points that Lewes FC raise is the comparison of the FA Cup to Wimbledon – one of Tennis’ prestigious four grand slams – which distributes prize money equally between the male and female competitors.
The world-famous tennis tournament rewards all competitors equally, with £17m allocated to male players and £17m to female players.
Given such equality and consideration to the distribution of financial rewards in the biggest tennis tournament in the United Kingdom, football’s equivalent – the FA Cup – appears to be far behind other leading sporting tournaments up and down the country.
The Football Association has undergone major structural changes in recent years since former FA chiefs, in 2017, called on the UK government to review the structure of the organisation.
Such structural changes within the FA have since seen relative progress in the game – including the establishment of three positions within the FA board for female members.
As a result, there must be consideration from Lewes FC and other advocates of women in football that there is in fact change being made by the FA. Most importantly, though, such drastic change to football’s leading governing body in the United Kingdom will not be able to change overnight.
Instead, patience and time need to be given to those in charge to create positive change in the women’s game.
Lewes FC are right, the FA have far to go to ensure that the women are fairly rewarded in football.
However, it must be remember how far the women’s game has come in such a short period of time and such radical change so soon would not be healthy for the game.
It was only in 2011 that the Women’s Super League was officially introduced on British shores. Furthermore, compared to the men’s game which boasts 92 professional teams in it’s four-tier pyramid, the women’s game holds just 22 clubs across two divisions.
Considering such disparity in the size and history of men and women’s football, there is likely to be an imbalance in the levels of prize money allocated by the FA.
However, what must be done, as brilliantly advocated by Lewes FC in their open letter, is a continued effort to host an FA Cup that rewards based on performance rather than gender.
The very fact that women are rewarded with less than 1% of the prize money that men are in the FA Cup shows that there are still significant changes that need to be made.
Lewes FC’s open letter to the FA Board is yet to receive a response – as of February 7 – but an inevitable reply from the governing body will be likely to create more food for thought in the ongoing debate surrounding gender equality in football.