First things first. The news that the FA intends to increase the total prize fund for the women’s FA Cup to £3m is very good news. This would be around seven times the current prize pot and will clearly make a difference. It was the FA of 1921 that decimated women’s football with a ban that lasted 50 years. It was the FA of 1993 that took 22 years after the end of that ban, to finally create an official Women’s Football Committee. But the FA of today has focussed real resources and purpose behind rebuilding women’s football in England and the whole of football recognises that.
So why does Lewes FC continue its call, that began over three years ago, to go even further, to equalise the funding of the men’s and women’s FA Cups, and to shift prize funding to earlier Rounds?
Because equality is a fundemental principle. And because we LOVE the FA Cup. And we believe that after 150 years of history, this amazing competition has the power to bring about real change in football. And more than that, it can be a beacon for fairness and gender equality beyond football.
So today, we publish two options for a reboot of the FA Cup, to benefit not only women’s football, but men’s non-league and lower league football too.
A football club is in a unique position to constantly gauge the feelings of fans and other clubs. Lewes FC has spent the last year hearing those feelings and distilling them into detailed proposals that we now share publicly, so that a dialogue can ensue between all those who love football: fans, clubs, players, coaches and of course the game’s governing body. Let’s decide things together and, by doing so, make the outcome even more powerful.
The Lewes Proposals
There are four guiding principles to the options we are publishing:
• Equality (or indeed equity) between men’s and women’s teams in the FA Cup
• Distributing prize funds to where they are most needed
• Creating a transparent and public mechanism for how prize funds are allocated
• None of this requiring additional spend from the FA.
One of our options is called equal Prize Per Fixture (PPF) – this takes the total prize fund (men and women) and allocates an equal base amount to every fixture played, across every Round of the competitions. We have then added two weighting variables.
• One of these weights the prize money differently according to the Cup Round. So, as is traditional, the further a team goes in the competition, so the prize money increases with ensuing Rounds carrying a higher weighting.
• The other variable is simply the split between what the winner and loser receive. We have set this at a 75/25 split, but you can play with different splits and see what happens. This is our ‘equality’ option as the equalisation is set at a ‘per fixture’ level.
This means that, from now on, no matter how many teams enter the respective men’s and women’s competitions, the Prize Per Fixture figure will always remain equal. But because, currently, some 729 men’s teams enter and 417 women’s teams, more money in total would go into the men’s FA Cup.
For example, under the previous model, a team winning the 3rd Qualifying Round in the men’s competition would take home £5,625 and in the women’s FA Cup, just £600. But under the new PPF model, both teams would take home £8,701 for winning that match.
The other option is called 50/50 – as the name suggests, this simply takes the total prize fund and splits it equally between men and women. Fewer women’s teams entering (for now) means that those teams receive more prize money than their male counterparts. Fair? Well, it is if you favour the idea of ‘equity’ rather than just ‘equality’. Equality means that you treat men’s and women’s teams the same, as under the PPF option. But equity means you acknowledge and address that each has a different starting point and that, in the case of women’s football, it requires additional funding to help to redress the catastrophic damage of the 50-year ban (plus 22 further years of no investment). And equity also addresses the point that greater investment in women’s football will accelerate growth and a move away from a dependency on benefactors, be that a ‘the men’s club’ or individual business angels or indeed FA grants.
Redistribution to smaller clubs
Currently, some 45% of the total FA Cup prize fund is allocated to the final three Rounds of the men’s competition i.e., the Quarter-Final, Semi-Final and Final. And of course, this money is invariably won by Premier League teams, the same teams who already earn at least £100m simply for being in that League. Indeed, in most years, around 67% of all the Cup prize money is won by Premier League sides. Obviously, that’s not surprising, but do they NEED the money? How much difference does it make? The answer is ‘very little’. The Premier League has brought huge revenues into the game and has created mechanisms to share some of that wealth, so being generous with FA Cup funds will be in line with that.
Crucially, both our options heavily redistribute prize funds to earlier Rounds in both the women’s and men’s competitions. So, men’s non-League clubs are also major beneficiaries.
In fact, both options result in around 95% of all the 1,136 teams entering both competitions being financially better off. And in many cases, the extra amount will be transformational for the clubs receiving it, enabling them to improve their facilities, add more junior teams, more coaches and drive grassroots football development.
Transparency and fan participation
Ask any fan, or indeed club, how the distribution of FA Cup prize funds is decided, and the answer will be the same. No idea. Do we need to know? Perhaps not but isn’t this another way to keep the FA Cup exemplary and world-leading, by putting transparency at its heart? Lewes FC has sought to create clear mechanisms for how each option allocates the prize fund. And we are publishing the detailed spreadsheets for each, so fans can see and discuss the weighting factors we’ve used and debate, for example, to what extent the earlier Rounds of each competition should be better rewarded. Anyone can change the various weightings and immediately see what effect that would have.
We have created a simple ‘Find My Team’ tool on a downloadable spreadsheet (via our website) so that fans can see exactly how their own team would have fared financially under both the PPF and 50/50 options, versus how things currently are. This could do with a little refining, and we’ll be working on that aspect. We’ve also shown, where applicable, the men’s team’s corresponding women’s team so that the net financial effect of our options on a club can also be seen. This is important as you may find, for example, that in some cases, the men’s team is financially worse off, but the women’s team’s financial gains more to compensate.
For example, under our PPF option, West Ham United men would have received £86,808 LESS than under the current model. But… West Ham United women would already be guaranteed £91,881 MORE in total winnings, so, West Ham United Football Club would, overall, be £5,073 better off.
This costs the FA no more money
Let’s not underestimate the importance of this. The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the revenues of the Football Association, and no one can expect increased spending overall until that situation improves. So, the Lewes proposals simply reallocate existing funding. But, at the same time, as finances allow increased prize money, the transparent and consistent mechanism we’ve designed for allocation will make things simple in future. The proposals you will see are based on the current FA Cup total prize pot of £16.3m, but can easily be amended if indeed the new total prize pot is to grow to £18.9m as indicated by the FA. Having a clear, transparent mechanism for allocating the prize fund makes this simple.
For us, we have always believed that ‘Equality is a rising tide that lifts all boats’. This means we don’t just think about how women’s football can be better off. We have seen in our own club that investment in women’s football generates interest and revenue that the men’s team also benefit from. When you get it right, not only do ‘the men’ not lose out, but they also emphatically gain too. Indeed, that is the evidence that shows you’re getting it right and that you are creating sustainable solutions that are in everyone’s interests. Equality is a classic win-win.
So, let’s not lose ourselves in the ‘Well, who earned the money in the first place?’ argument. Yes, it is indeed the men’s FA Cup that earns in excess of £200m a year in TV rights revenues for the FA. But ask yourself two things… How much would the women’s FA Cup be worth were it not for the 50yr ban (plus 22yr investment gap)? And anyway, why does it matter so much who earnt it? Does a family allocate its money according to which adult partner earns the most? And the FA’s guiding remit is ‘For All’, to be redistributive and give money according to need and growth opportunities.
Thank you for reading this. Take a moment to read our proposals in detail, check the potential impact on your teams and vote which proposal you would prefer. Share your views on social media, using the hashtag #EqualFACup. We look forward to sharing the results and any further updates with you.