Women's FA Cup: Why is prize money over 100 times smaller than men's competition?

By Tom GarryBBC Sport
Women's FA Cup
The Women's FA Cup final takes place on 9 May at Wembley

Women's FA Cup prize money in the early rounds is not sufficient to cover away-tie costs, clubs have told BBC Sport.

Winning teams from Sunday's third round each received £1,250 - compared to £135,000 for men's clubs.

The team that wins the Women's FA Cup final at Wembley in May will get £25,000 - more than five times less than men's third-round winners.

The Football Association has invested more than £18m in its 'Game Plan for Growth' strategy for the women's game.

"It's like a chicken-and-egg situation. Without a bigger financial reward, you can't really develop staff or facilities. Our players don't earn a penny," Ipswich Town Women manager Joe Sheehan told BBC Sport.

Ipswich, who are top of the fourth tier's south-east region, began their 2019-20 cup journey with victory in the second qualifying round, for which they earned £450.

"We've won five games in the competition now," Sheehan added. "We've had four ties at home. That's really helped us. But if you get two away games, you could end up actually at a deficit.

"That shouldn't be the case. It makes things difficult. You'd like to see a bigger reward."

BBC Sport is aware of at least two other clubs who have lost money through the cost of an away tie.

An FA spokesperson said: "While we recognise there is currently a significant disparity between prize money for the men's and women's competitions, these are determined by the amounts of money generated through commercial revenue.

"The prize fund for the 2018-19 SSE Women's FA Cup was the largest in the history of the competition and over £252,000 was distributed across the competing teams."

Prize money for both competitions in 2019-20 remained the same as the previous season.

The winners of the men's cup will receive £3.6m in addition to their prize money for progressing through the earlier rounds.

"The Emirates FA Cup is the biggest revenue producer for the FA and currently generates £212m per annum," an FA spokesperson added.

"This revenue enables us to invest back into football at all levels and we have made significant progress to develop the women's game as a result, investing over £18m into the 'Game Plan for Growth', our ambitious strategy for the women's game.

"We are also currently developing a five-year strategy with the FA Women's Super League and Championship clubs to grow audiences and revenues, which will help make women's football in England more commercially viable in the future and allow further reinvestment."

Sheehan, whose in-form side face a trip to third-tier Huddersfield Town in the fourth round on 26 January, added: "We played Chichester away in the second round and had to pay nearly £1,000 to hire a coach for the day to go to Chichester.

"The men's reward is significantly higher, because of the amount of investment from stakeholders and sponsors. That is starting to grow for women's football now.

"But if it can filter down and there be a bigger reward in prize money for lower clubs it gives clubs the opportunity to invest it and make progress."

A spokesperson for the Women's Sport Trust, a charity focused on accelerating gender equality and stimulating social change through sport, told BBC Sport: "2019 was a fantastic year in terms of visibility for women's football in this country and the FA Cup has always been a key moment in the calendar, particularly the Wembley final.

"But growing the game is more than just awareness - we need to ensure it is viable, which means a continuation of the focus on clear investment, resource and expertise being brought to bear by the FA and others.

"The Women's Sport Trust recognises the difficult balance required to create sustainable growth while taking natural opportunities to accelerate progress and make statements of intent.

"That said, a reappraisal of prize money could have a particularly positive impact on inclusion and profile of the women's game, not least in the earlier rounds."

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women's sport available to watch across the BBC, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women's sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.