·17 March 2023
·17 March 2023
If Lewes pull off an upset and defeat Manchester United in the Women’s FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend, the club will pocket £25,000.
While this seems like a considerable sum, it is overshadowed by the £450,000 earned by the winners at the same stage in the men’s tournament.
It is these figures which prompted Lewes’ players to write an open letter to Karen Carney, who is chair of an in-depth review into the future of domestic women’s football.
GiveMeSport VIDEO OF THE DAY
Signed by every member of the women’s squad, the letter asserts that the widening gap in the men’s and women’s FA Cup prize pot was "concerning".
Lauren Heria, who joined Lewes at the start of the season after a trial with the club, was one of the main drivers behind the letter.
“It was originally four of us that got together,” she told GiveMeSport Women. “Myself, Nat Johnson, our captain Rhian Cleverly and Laura Hartley. We all felt we had a really good platform from the progress made in the FA Cup.
“Being in the quarterfinals gave us an opportunity to bring light to an issue that we've seen for years – the prize money element of the FA Cup.
“It’s something the club's campaigned on since 2019. It’s something as players we've all been involved in, playing FA Cup football for different teams. We love the tournament a lot. But I think we were even surprised when we saw the figures.
“A lot of the narrative has been about the prize pot increasing to £3 million this season, and we're thankful for that and have benefited from that, but when we actually looked at the numbers, and the size of the gap between what we win and what the men win.
“We thought that if we didn’t know it, then other people wouldn't know it. So let's do an open letter. Let's bring light to it. And then we really want to make a change off the back of it.”
Heria described the response to the letter as “overwhelming”, with Manchester United boss Marc Skinner among the figures in women’s football to commend the campaign.
“It’s been really nice to see players from other clubs and leagues jumping on board and saying that it’s something that matters and it's something that should change,” Heria said.
“I just love it, I think players using their voices is so important. To be at a club that encourages us to use our voices is fantastic, and to see players following and standing with us is brilliant.”
The week prior, the UK Government had pledged to provide equal access to all sports in PE for boys and girls, a minimum of two hours of PE a week, and a multi million‑pound investment in school sports and extracurricular activities.
This commitment was sparked by an open letter from the Lionesses after their glorious victory at Euro 2022.
Heria revealed how the letter had stuck with her since it was published, inspiring her to take similar action.
“It was so cool to see these giants in the women's game standing up and using their voice in that way,” she said.
“I was inspired that they had this moment of success on the pitch, and took the time to understand what it could mean for the wider football community and wider society.
“Not only did they take the time to reflect on it, they then actually put an action into place. Now off the back of it, change has come. So it’s certainly an inspiration, although the timing was just chance really.
“I think when we spoke to the wider team, it was really important for us to convey the message of what we wanted to do, and why we thought it was important.
“When we spoke to the players as a whole, every single player said they wanted to be a part of it. Again, that was quite overwhelming. So it's really fantastic.”
View publisher imprint