Lewes chief executive Maggie Murphy says it would be “incredibly powerful” if FIFA’s talk of equal prize money for men’s and women’s World Cups became reality.
Lewes have been campaigning for equal sharing of the total FA Cup prize fund as they prepare for Sunday’s historic quarter-final at home against Manchester United in the women’s competition.
On Thursday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said the world governing body’s ambition was to have equality in payments for the 2026 men’s and 2027 women’s World Cups, adding that “broadcasters and sponsors have to do more”.
Murphy told the PA news agency: “I think the important thing is prize money is now being put on the agenda as something that is up for debate and has been seen to have too much disparity until now.
“I think it’s really important that the players called for equal prize money for the World Cup, and it shows the power of player activism.
“At the moment, from my perspective, this is a nice pledge so far, and it is significant, because we’ve never seen FIFA say this – but when it comes to FIFA, the proof is in the pudding.
“I really look forward to seeing if these words actually turn into action – and FIFA can also take a step forward and not wait for it to be the result of broadcast and sponsors.
“It would be incredibly powerful if FIFA was to adopt equal prize money for the World Cup – if that happens, I do think there would be a domino effect, so there’s no underestimating the power of that actually happening.
“And I am slightly more optimistic that with that language from FIFA, that puts pressure on the national associations to step up.”
An open letter from Lewes players published earlier this week, addressed to former England midfielder Karen Carney, who was last year commissioned by the Government to lead a review of women’s football, highlighted that the women’s team had earned £45,000 for winning the three matches in their FA Cup run, compared to the £450,000 for sides that had entered the men’s third round and reached the quarter-finals.
It pointed out that while the overall women’s prize fund rose to £3million for this season, “the men’s increased by close to £4m”.
Murphy says the increase on the women’s side was “a good step forward” but the disparity was something for which “we can’t settle”.
Lewes, who began their campaign a few years ago, have proposals on their official website for distributing the total prize fund, Murphy says, “without having to spend a penny more, but in a way that would feed the whole football ecosystem”.
Murphy has expressed her pride in the players’ “bravery” in leading the campaign, and said the success of the England women’s team’s open letter regarding access to sport in schools had been inspiring and “fuelled them to continue down the road they had started”.
Lewes, who are fan-owned and have equal playing budgets for their women’s and men’s teams, could face some of the Lionesses in Sunday’s sold-out tie against Women’s Super League title-chasers United at the Dripping Pan, a first-ever quarter-final for the Championship side.
Murphy said: “I think it’s the biggest game in the club’s history, not just the women’s club. Our team have already made history, so there’s no pressure on their shoulders: they just have to go out there, be bold and big, and represent the club well, which I know they will.
“I don’t think many people would back us, but this is the FA Cup and anything can happen, so we’ll be looking for that 89th-minute winner. You have to dream and believe.”
Following Lewes’ open letter, a Football Association spokesperson said: “The Vitality Women’s FA Cup has seen record levels of investment into the competition, and this season the prize fund has increased almost tenfold, to £3m per season.
“Women’s football continues to be in a growth phase and our primary focus is to attract new audiences to the competition with live matches on free-to-air television with the BBC.
“We are always looking to make further improvements and investment across the women’s game to help it thrive in the future.”
:: Lewes FC announced a three-year partnership with Xero small business accounting software last year. To find out more about how the club and Xero are working together visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dsxr58HBqis
Published: by Radio NewsHub