UNLOCK THE GATE: Celebrating
100 years since women first got the vote and bringing bigger crowds to women’s
Supported by Brighton & Hove Buses and Depot cinema, Lewes
Why does this campaign matter?
As for celebrating 100 years of women getting the vote, we haven’t noticed much media coverage yet, so let’s get that going.
As for women’s football, in many ways, it is surging in popularity in the UK and
beyond. But it still does not enjoy even 1% of the media coverage or
sponsorship that the men’s game does. And why doesn’t it? Because, the argument
goes, until it can attract crowds at a similar level to the men’s game, it does
not ‘deserve’ media or commercial support. They
say ‘Come back when you’ve got an audience.’
And that is the self-fulfilling, circular barrier that stands in the way
of the women’s game regaining the full popularity it had before the FA banned
it in 1921 (until 1971): Small crowds = small media coverage = small
sponsorship = small revenues = part-time players = lower skills = small crowds.
They even say
that ‘When you’ve got big crowds, we can let you play in the clubs’ main home
stadium – but not till then’. So, women’s teams almost all play in small
venues, often not even in the town or City whose name they carry. In women’s
football, Arsenal play… in Boreham Wood; Chelsea play… in Kingston; Liverpool
play… in Widnes and on and on it goes. You get the idea.
The cycle has to be broken if progress is to be made. The only place where
we, the fans, have the power to break that cycle is the crowds in the stadiums
where women currently play.
The reality is that, to make
this change, women footballers need the support of other women.
Male fans will come, over time, many already do, but this is a
change women can lead.
Why is it Lewes Football Club driving this move?
Lewes FC is dedicated to creating equality between
women’s and men’s football?
Why? Because we are a 100% community-owned, democratic club whose core ‘Purpose’
is to create Community Benefit: Our constitution states that “The
business of the Club is to be conducted for the benefit of the community served
by the Club and not for the profit of its owners.”
We see our community as both geographical and the wider football
community. We believe that gender equality is a key part of both communities –
the absence of equality is discrimination and discrimination is something that
undermines all communities.
In July 2017, Lewes
Football Club became the first (and currently only) club to give its men’s and
women’s teams an EQUAL playing budget, to pay them the same (equalityfc.com)
– the Norway national teams recently followed suit. Lewes FC Women already play
all their home games at the same stadium as the men’s team, the legendary
Dripping Pan. This is unfortunately still very rare in women’s football.
The Campaign – what can you do?
We want women’s groups
and individuals to sign-up to this campaign and come along to Lewes FC Women’s
games to show support. Of course, men are very welcome as ever, but the
focus of this campaign is on local women’s groups.
Lewes FC Women already get crowds of up to 250 at home games – small,
but the best in our League (the FA Women’s Premier League). We want to boost
our crowds to 500 and beyond. To be honest, we’d love to fill the stadium
(3,000 capacity), but let’s see how we get on.
We want to set an example other clubs can follow and appeal directly to
a whole new ‘fanbase’ of women who may not often or ever have watched football,
but want to support the efforts of women footballers as they try and break the
very thick glass ceiling that exists. And we also want to celebrate the amazing
women whose courage led to the beginning of women getting the vote, 100 years
ago next year (2018).
So, please come along to the Lewes FC Women v Gillingham Ladies match on Sunday 25th February. Bring your banners and t-shirts! And bring a friend…
Charlie Dobres at Lewes FC, firstname.lastname@example.org