Lewes chief wants FIFA pledge on prize money to become reality
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.
The Women's Championship side have been campaigning for equal distribution of the total FA Cup prize fund as they prepare to welcome Manchester United for Sunday's quarter-final at The Dripping Pan.
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 said: "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 adopted 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 with that language from FIFA, that puts pressure on the national associations to step up."
An open letter from Lewes players, addressed to ex-England ace Karen Carney, who was last year commissioned by the UK government to lead a review of women's football, highlighted that the club 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, which according to Murphy can be achieved "without having to spend a penny more, but in a way that would feed the whole football ecosystem".
Murphy has also 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.
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 their sold-out tie against Women's Super League title-chasers United.
Ahead of the team's first-ever FA Cup quarter-final, 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."
An FA 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 TV 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."