Tackling inequality on the Soccer field

Lewes FC Is Leading The Way In Soccer Equality For Women.

Equality for women feels more possible in all spheres, sports included. Lewes FC broke ground by paying its male and female teams the same amount.

Equality FC Campaign Bears Fruit for Lewes

Lewes Football Club has both male and female teams, the Isthmian League South and the Premier League Southern. In a groundbreaking move, the East Sussex-based team offered the same playing budget to the men’s and women’s sides as part of their Equality FC campaign. This marked the first time this happened for a professional or semi-profession football club anywhere in the world.

As important as Lewes FC has been to increasing parity on the sports field, the proverbial ball did not start rolling with them. And, happily, it seems that it is not stopping either. In different sports and different arenas of life, inequality is being revealed and addressed like never before.

United States Hockey Players: Champions in Every Way

Before defeating Canada and bringing home Olympic Gold from Pyeongchang in 2018, the USA Women’s Hockey Team scored a landmark victory in the decades-long struggle for equal treatment across both genders in sports.

The team threatened to boycott the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation world championship unless their demands were met. Interestingly, they were not asking for equal salaries but for the same investments and resources into their side as into the men’s. Specific requests included more money for marketing and development programmes for young girls.

Negotiations lasted more than a year, but 4-year contracts that met most of the team’s demands were finally signed. Many people look at their victory as a great start, but feel there is much more to be done and that forces are gathering to make that possible.

Female Soccer players in action

Other Equality Campaigns in Sports and Beyond

Following the example of their hockey-playing counterparts, North America’s women’s national Soccer team ended a long-term dispute over conditions and pay with governing body US Soccer, by agreeing to a new deal in April 2017. This led to the first-ever equal pay at Lewes FC, and then another historical moment when Norway agreed to pay its male and female national Football teams the same amount of 6 million kroner a year.

Marketing and development equality, as the Ice Yanks got after a year of negotiations, is also essential. While Lewes FC and Norway are currently backing campaigns that specifically target equality, athletics as a career for females needs to be more supported and endorsed, and the next generation of sportswomen needs to be encouraged. Some clubs are actually starting to allow women to train and compete with men, as they have done in Ice Hockey for years, which is very heartening.

Further afield, the #metoo and #timesup movements are fighting for women’s voices to be heard and value to be recognised in social, political and industry sectors. While it cannot be disputed that there is still much to redress, not only for the rights of women but also for people of colour and all minority groups, there is truly a sense that society is riding a new wave where some of this might be possible.

Disagreement from an Unexpected Source

One of the most exciting things about the current moves towards equality seen in Soccer is how supportive the corresponding male teams have been. Lewes FC men’s manager Darren Freeman has said, for example, that “parity means giving everyone the same opportunity and getting the same rewards”, and Norway’s male captain Stefan Johansen has been vocal in his approval of the new pay structure.

However, not everyone agrees that men and women should be paid the same on the Soccer field. Crewe Alexandra player Katie Nuttall says she and her fellow female players should not be paid the same as their male counterparts because they do not generate the same kind of revenue.

While some people might be surprised that this is the opinion of a woman athlete, it is true that men generate more profits at the moment. But the reason for this, many would argue, is that so much more is invested in them in the first place. Equality in sports, and everywhere else, could pay dividends in so many ways.

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