The fourth round of the Women’s FA Cup is upon us. 32 teams are set to take part, all with the view of making it to Wembley for the final… but is it even worth it?
The FA Cup is the longest standing tradition in world football. The name of the competition carries a certain level of prestige. It is not replicated by any other domestic competition on the planet.Embed from Getty Images
So why does the women’s version of the competition not get anywhere near the amount of support from the Football Association as their male counterparts?
Prize money problems
The biggest thing is the prize money involved. People keep coming back to the conversation on the amount of money that is knocking about in each iteration of the competition.
The total prize money in the men’s FA Cup, that is split between all the teams depending on their performance is £30,264,000.Embed from Getty Images
Compared to the measly figure of £309,335 in the women’s competition.
This works out to an average of £41,175 per club in the men’s competition, with £1,031 for women’s clubs.
More prize money is awarded to the winners of the Extra Preliminary Round in the Men’s FA Cup (£414k) than the entire prize pool for the Women’s FA Cup.
Hoddesdon Town earned more money for defeating Brantham Athletic than Manchester City or Manchester United will win for winning the Manchester Derby at Leigh Sports Village this weekend.Embed from Getty Images
For instance, Great Yarmouth Town FC – who play in the Eastern Counties League Division One North – earned £2,250 for beating Wellingborough Witworth of the United Counties League Division One.
The most money a Women’s Super League team can win in one run in the FA Cup is £39,000. Winning from the fourth round to the final.
If a Premier League side did the same and won from the third round to the final, they’d earn £6,795,000.
In case you’re keeping track, that’s 174.2x more prize money than that of the Women’s FA Cup.
If the FA are actually serious about improving the quality of women’s football, this should be the starting point.
In 2017, the FA announced a strategy for women’s football titled: “The Gameplan for Growth.”
Within this strategy, the FA promised to “improve the commercial prospects in women’s football”.
They said that they would do this by: “Reviewing the format and timings of competitions and events to maximise commercial opportunities” and “working with clubs to provide regular and consistent fixtures for the domestic competitions.”Embed from Getty Images
The closest that the FA have come to making these a reality is trying to ensure that big games are not scheduled at the same time as men’s games.
However, the Continental Cup remains in the same format that it has been in since 2016. It has quickly grown stale. It also looks like there are no real plans to change it any time soon. This is despite several high-profile personalities being vocally against the competition.
“Maximising commercial opportunities” could start with something as small as getting a brand or company to sponsor the Women’s FA Cup.
This would help every single women’s club that enters the FA Cup.
READ MORE: Is 2020 the year of women’s football?
The current prize money does not even cover the expenses for away-day travel. Let alone actually being worth it for a club to make a push deep into the competition.Embed from Getty Images
Put yourself in the shoes of Cleethorpes Town FC. They had to travel two hours to Nottingham to face Notts County in the Extra Preliminary Round of this season’s Women’s FA Cup.
Clee Town lost 11-1.
They received £75 for their troubles.
What would more prize money actually do?
The short answer to that question is quite simply, everything.
It will drive up the competitiveness of the competition – teams will be more motivated to put everything they’ve got into the competition.
A raise in prize money will also increase the quality of the game as a whole. The more money that clubs have, the more quality players and facilities they will have.
It has been the same for years. The clubs with the most money, win the most. You see it with Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea in the WSL. They have the biggest financial backing from their parent clubs.Embed from Getty Images
Olympique Lyonnais have dominated the Champions League for the past few years, because they have the ability to go out and pay fees for transfers. That’s a luxury that is rare in the women’s game.
Only 14% of transfers in the women’s game have a transfer fee attached to it. Only £551,000 was spent worldwide on transfer fees in the women’s game in 2019.
If the team that wins the men’s FA Cup final donated 10% of their winnings for the whole tournament to the Women’s FA Cup, then you could triple the prize money.
The responsibility of the FA
The solutions are there. There are options for the FA but they seem to just be completely blind to them. There is a certain level of “ignorance is bliss” going on right at the top of the FA and that needs to change.
Megan Rapinoe is pushing for equal pay in the USWNT. We’re having to push to have the Women’s FA Cup’s prize money be more 144x less than the men’s equivalent.Embed from Getty Images
What the FA will truly want is to win the World Cup but that will never ever happen until they actually put the correct amount of funding and effort into the domestic women’s game.