The total prize money for the Women’s FA Cup will double to almost £6m this season but concerns have been raised about the distribution model for the extra funding.
The near £3m uplift, which means the prize money for the winners of the competition will increase from £100,000 to £430,000 in addition to the money accumulated through the previous rounds, will benefit only clubs competing from December’s third round onwards.
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In a statement, the Championship side Lewes praised the increase as a step forward but added that “clubs lower down the pyramid deserve better”.
Lewes have long campaigned for equal FA Cup prize money and the £2,970,250 increase to £5,994,000, alongside the prize money for the men’s FA Cup having been frozen at £19,829,800, means the gap has shrunk a little.
However, with money for women’s teams competing in the early rounds, from the first qualifying round to second round proper, frozen at £1,854,000, there has been a decrease in their share of the total prize pot, from 62.4% last season to 30.9% this season, which will widen the financial gaps between clubs in the pyramid.
Maggie Murphy, CEO of Lewes said: “The FA continue to prove their commitment towards the growth of women’s football by enhancing FA Cup prize money significantly … However, we are concerned by the distribution of the entire increase towards the later rounds only. We must not forget the scarcity of resources for clubs outside of the top two tiers who need to have a chance of winning these funds even more.”
The FA highlighted that this is the second successive seasonal increase in the prize fund for the Women’s FA Cup: “Last year’s increase was weighted towards growing the prize fund for the earlier rounds of the competition from the first round qualifying to the second round proper to the benefit of clubs lower down the pyramid.”
The FA also said that, while the extra funding comes into play when the Women’s Super League and Championship clubs enter the tournament, “28 teams from outside of the professional game also compete in the third round proper, meaning clubs from tier three and below of the women’s football pyramid will collectively access a minimum additional prize pot of £404,000 compared to if they had made the same stage last season”.
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Last season’s rise and the distribution model weighted in favour of clubs further down the pyramid was widely welcomed at the time but the distribution model this time is being viewed in some quarters as a step back. Lewes’s statement highlighted this fear, saying: “We cannot risk the Women’s FA Cup becoming like the men’s where 67% of the prize pot ends up with Premier League clubs.”