England’s Lionesses have shown the worth of the women’s game – but the FA Cup highlights more needs to be done

4 min

With the Women’s FA Cup Second Round running alongside the Men’s competition this weekend, never has the gulf between the two games been more noticeable.

While a selection of the men’s matches are broadcast live, there is scant coverage of the women’s competition with the prize money on offer also in stark contrast.

Regardless of the competition, a good cup run for any lower league side can significantly boost coffers as well as raise the profile of clubs who are often overlooked at the bottom of the footballing pyramid.

But with the women’s prize money negligible in comparison to the men’s, the impact these cup runs can have on the long-term success and development of lower league women’s sides is still much less effective.

England’s Lionesses demonstrated the increasing worth of the women’s game this summer, showcasing record-breaking crowds and viewing figures at Euro 2022 to reinforce the growing feeling the financial gap between the women’s and men’s games need to be closed.

This season has seen the FA come to an agreement to increase the Women’s FA Cup prize money following extensive fan campaigning – although there is still a staggering drop compared to the men’s competition.

For instance, the winner of the Women’s FA Cup will receive £100k in comparison to the winners of the Men’s FA Cup who will receive over 10 times more than that with a staggering £2m prize fund.

For lower league clubs like Women’s National League Division One South East side Actonians LFC, who are away to Ashford United in the Women’s FA Cup Second Round, even a slightly larger prize pot would help massively in reducing the financial headache of putting on the games.

READ MORE: England’s Lionesses have a bright future after Euro 2022 triumph, but it’s important the rest of women’s football follows suit

“In previous years we would hope for a local away game to avoid the costs of hosting or having to hire a minibus for long away trips,” Actonians club chairwoman Linda Fox exclusively told London Football Scene.

“It would quite often cost more than the prize money for that round but now it has got a bit better.

“There are always improvements that could be made – even though the prize money has increased, there is still a lot of room to push that further. But at least now teams hopefully don’t lose money when taking part.”

While Actonians eased into the next round with a comfortable 3-0 win at AFC Stoneham, the rest of the First Round included some of the heaviest scorelines to date including 10-1, 12-0 and 8-1.

At the moment, not only do losing sides face the ignominy of such heavy defeats but a paltry sum of £450 for the expense of it – money which often barely covers travel costs and accommodation should the side have to make a long away trip.

Without even taking into account the men’s teams receive more than double this at the same stage of the competition, a combination of these results and poor funds is not conducive to growing a burgeoning women’s game from grassroots level.

As women’s football was banned by the FA for 50 years, only to be lifted in 1971 with the first Women’s FA Cup being played, it still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of development with greater prize money providing a much-needed shot in the arm to help lift standards.

READ MORE: “It’s not just a woman’s job to fight sexism” – Sutton United and HerGameToo in equality rallying call

“Even with the increase, the gap is still huge,” Fox added. “I really hope this continues to narrow and that smaller independent clubs like ours can benefit from that. 

“It will help level the playing field with bigger clubs and ultimately will provide more competitive domestic leagues, which can only be a good thing.”

In turn, more investment and success will also bring bigger ticket sales, broadcasting deals and increased coverage which will not only benefit clubs and the competition but the game as a whole.

This year more than ever the women’s game have proven they deserve greater investment and as calls for equal pay grow louder, it is only a matter of time until their voices are heard.

Images of Actonians LFC’s FA Cup First Round win over AFC Stoneham provided courtesy of the club.


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