Pay parity at the Pan
Photo by James Boyes
“Radio 5 Live, the Times, the Telegraph, the Guardian, ITV, BBC TV South East, Sky are coming down on Sunday…” Lewes FC director Jacquie Agnew is telling me the media outlets that have picked up on the club’s Equality FC launch, and it’s a long list of just about every one you can think of. Lewes Football Club is in the news… again.
And so it should be, because the latest development at their home ground, the Dripping Pan, is a veritable revolution, and a first for football. On July 12th it was announced that the budget for the women’s team would be exactly the same as the budget for the men’s team, and this is thought to be the first time any pro or semi-pro club in the world has taken such a measure.
“This doesn’t mean the men’s budget is going down,” she explains. “It is simply being matched.” This has been made possible by donations from sponsors eager to back – and to be seen backing – such an egalitarian move. “We’re righting a wrong which has been around for a long time – since the FA banned women from using their pitches in 1921 after the Dick Kerr Ladies played in front of a crowd of 25,000.”
Lewes Ladies FC, nicknamed the Rookettes, have never played in front of a crowd of more than 260 (achieved towards the end of last season at the Dripping Pan) but that will surely change this coming season as the team attempts to gain promotion from the third to the second tier of female football, and into the WSL (the Women’s Super League, consisting of two divisions, where the likes of Aston Villa and Everton play).
It won’t be easy, but the Rookettes ended last season in fine form: in April they won a national trophy, the FAWPL Plate – beating Huddersfield 4-0 in the Final. And this year they should be even stronger: the club’s clear ambition – and ever-improving contract conditions – means that joining Lewes will be a very tempting option for the top players in the extended area; manager John Donoghue had already signed two strikers from Brighton and Hove Albion before the pay-parity news was announced. “John thought we needed more firepower, and now we’ve got it.” Donoghue wants to keep the core of the old team together but make improvements where improvements need making, so expect a few more new faces before the season proper starts. “We’re fishing in a bigger pond, now,” says Jacquie.
Naturally Jacquie can’t wait for the new season to start, and she’s not the only one. “All eyes will be on us this season, and not just in the Lewes area. The PR company we’re working with, Finsbury, have produced a map of the world showing where people have been discussing this news on social media. It’s amazing. People are talking about us all over the world.”
August 6th, 2pm Lewes FC Women’s 1st v Chelsea Development Squad (U23s). lewesfc.com