Exclusive: Maggie Murphy discusses Lewes, community and pay parity

BT Sport Films will premiere its latest masterpiece ‘Ours’, an honest, insightful documentary, on Tuesday evening.

The production provides a voice for the football supporters who’ve been so heavily missed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Artificial crowd sounds and empty seats have become the new norm — but where has that left the loyal supporters who once bundled through the turnstiles on every match day?

'Ours' brings to light life outside of elite-level athletes and multi-million pound transfers. It hones in on how having fans at the heart of a club can achieve extraordinary things. And Lewes FC is just one of many clubs mentioned in the documentary.

The East Sussex outfit is a non-profit, 100% community-led team that has established itself as one of the most recognised bodies pioneering equality within football. Known as ‘Equality FC’, Lewes became the first professional or semi-professional club to introduce equal pay for its men's and women's teams.

Women's team general manager Maggie Murphy spoke with GiveMeSport Women about the club's fan-based ownership and their involvement in BT Sport's newest film.

"Football clubs are a community asset," she said. "Football is for them [the fans] and profits don't come first. All of our decisions are guided by strong community-orientated principles, and that can be from who we bring on as sponsors or what kind of food we provide in the ground — everything is informed by the people rather than profit."

Lewes are just one of seven clubs that 'Ours' will be bringing into the spotlight. Others include Bury, Portsmouth and Hashtag United.

We only know of one other club that's introduced pay parity in the world, so in some ways, it stands out as unique but that's not a unique situation I'd like the world to be in.

Murphy went on to discuss the likelihood of bigger clubs taking the leap forward and providing equal pay for both the men's and women's teams.

"Some of the big clubs are still not investing that much into their women's side at all. They probably still see it as a CSR initiative or some kind of charity handout and I think that those people are just not understanding where the game is going.

"Women's football is not going back in a box. I don't think we're going to realise women's football's full potential until we start at the bottom."

Lewes FC Women are currently battling it out in the Championship against sides like Leicester City and Liverpool. Since the pay parity was introduced, they managed to secure their position in the league after being granted by FA officials in 2018. The community can enjoy watching both the men's and women's sides playing at the shared home ground of The Dripping Pan.

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet, it might have been deleted.

"I think we need a bit of a reality check. When we often think about football in this country, we think about the Premier League and we don't always remember that there are many hundreds of clubs below the Premier League," Murphy replied when asked about the benefits of Lewes featuring in 'Ours'.

"Those clubs are hugely important in their communities. We've seen that during Covid — we have seen how important we've been within the community. Week to week, they are supporting us. They come to our games, they buy our merchandise, they volunteer on the turnstiles... Then suddenly we're in a position where they couldn't come anymore.

"But we could go to them. We did medicine drops, we picked up shopping, we've worked a lot with the food banks. We've tried to use this time to show that we also value them and give back to the community."

‘Ours’, the latest instalment of the award-winning BT Sport Film series, premieres on Tuesday 2nd March at 10:30pm on BT Sport 1.

Georgia Goulding

Interested in: Football

Having previously worked with Yahoo! Sport, Georgia pushes to make sure that lesser known stories are told and voices are heard within the women's game.