Last weekend, nearly 41,000 fans filed into Wembley to watch Chelsea lift the Women’s FA Cup trophy.
The Blues put on a scintillating display, dominating against a star-studded Arsenal side to triumph 3-0.
Fran Kirby gave a Ballon d’Or-worthy performance, while Sam Kerr was named player of the match for scoring two brilliant goals.
The match had a peak audience on BBC One of 1.3 million, roughly 14 percent of the 9.1 million peak for this year’s men’s FA Cup Final.
Yet Chelsea received just 1.4 percent of the prize money awarded to Leicester, winners of the men’s FA Cup. Although £25,000 may not seem measly, it is when compared to £1.8 million.
This disparity in prize money is present right from the start of the FA Cup. In the first round proper of the tournament, a men’s team could win £22,629. Women’s teams will be given just £850.
Every football team dreams of an against-the-odds FA Cup run. For lower league men’s teams, reaching the latter stages of the competition means earning thousands of pounds.
But Clapton CFC, who became the first seventh-tier side to reach the third round proper of the Women’s FA Cup, will only earn £1,250 if they beat Plymouth Argyle today. That will not even cover their travel and accommodation for the trip to the south coast.
In comparison, men’s teams who are victorious in the third round proper will win £82,000.
Of course, there is the tiresome argument that women’s football does not bring in as much revenue, and therefore should not be given the same amount of prize money.
But the winner of the FA Vase, a men’s tournament, earns around £10,000 more than the winner of the Women’s FA Cup.
This year’s FA Vase and FA Trophy Finals was held as a double header and attracted a crowd of 6,000. It was also only televised on a subscription channel in the UK.
The Women’s FA Cup Final drew a crowd of 41,000 and was broadcast in over 40 countries around the world. It is a more lucrative tournament than the FA Vase, but winners are still awarded less prize money.
In addition, although the men’s FA Cup commands higher TV revenues from around the world, this can be partly attributed to the 50-year ban on women’s football in England.
Men’s football was given the chance to develop into the multi-billion pound industry it is today, while the women’s game was kicked into the long grass from 1921 to 1971.
Finally, the FA work by the motto “For All”. If the FA’s role is truly to support all parts of the game fairly, it should not matter where the revenue is made. According to the governing body’s own strap-line, revenue should be fairly shared.
To attempt to address this inequality, Lewes FC, the only football team in the world to pay its men and women’s sides equally, have come up with two alternative options for how FA Cup prize money is allocated.
Both options address not only the disparity in women’s prize money, but also reallocate funds from later rounds to men’s non-league and lower league clubs. Losing clubs in early rounds also get more money.
The first option is a 50/50 split, where the total £16 million prize pot is halved between the men and women’s tournament.
This is the simple solution, but there are currently far fewer women’s teams in the FA Cup than men’s. As a result, it could be argued that going with this option would “overcompensate” women’s teams.
Victors in the first round proper of the women’s competition would earn £36,368, for example, while the overall winners would receive £100, 013.
In comparison, men’s teams would be given £18,493 for successfully navigating the first round proper, and £73, 973 for triumphing overall.
The high amount of prize money on offer may encourage the entry or formation of women’s teams, however, and it could act as “reparation” for the 50-year ban.
Prize Per Fixture
The second option is Prize Per Fixture, where the same prize money would be allocated for men and women’s teams, per round, per fixture.
So, if a women’s team triumphed in the first round proper, they would receive the exact same prize money as their male counterparts – £11,509.
The overall winners would both receive £104, 632.
This option would only remove £4.5 million from current men’s total prize fund, resulting in a less abrupt equalisation.
Or, of course, the status quo could be maintained. The disparity could be left how it is.
How do you think the inequality in FA Cup prize money can be addressed?