5 October 2016
Time to make the FA play ball on promoting equality in football
The Women’s Equality Party has joined West Ham Ladies Football Club to call on the Football Association (FA) to better promote equality and grassroots football. The partnership comes as West Ham Ladies’ Chairman Stephen Hunt lodges a formal complaint against the FA over discriminatory practices at West Ham United.
“Along with West Ham Ladies, we are calling on the FA to implement its own equality policy properly in order to support women’s football,” said Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party “The men’s game is now a multi-billion pound business - West Ham United men’s team have use of the taxpayer-funded Olympic Stadium in east London (capacity 60,000), where tickets cost up to £50. The women’s team play their home games in a 3,500-seater stadium in Thurrock, where admission is £5. It’s time the FA used its authority to support the development of the women’s game too.”
West Ham Ladies are currently without funds for a new kit, physiotherapy provision or transport to games, and are running interim training sessions by a roadside after being locked out of West Ham United’s training facilities.
“West Ham United’s dispute with its women’s team has left players with nowhere to train, and not even new kit to play in, in spite of the club’s immense wealth,” added Walker. “This is in breach of the FA’s commitment to grow grassroots football, and it discriminates against women.”
West Ham Ladies and WEP are asking FA-affiliated clubs that run a men’s team to share training facilities equally with their women’s teams, to promote women’s games equally on their websites and to sell a women’s kit through their official stores, as well as put forward their female stars for interview as often as male players, and to make them the subject of an equal number of articles and features.
“These small changes will bring huge rewards for women’s teams which operate on tiny budgets, with very little external investment. It is a step towards levelling the playing field for women footballers,” said Walker. “We’re calling on women - and men - who play for these teams, or simply support them, to demand the FA enforce these small equality commitments.”
For Women in Sport week WEP are also calling on national governing bodies from a range of different sports to address the huge pay differentials between male and female athletes competing at national level. Women who represent their country in football, cricket, rugby and many other sports are paid significantly less than their male counterparts.
“What sportswomen are paid matters”, said Walker. “Turning professional improves the quality of sport, which in turn broadens its appeal to spectators, which in turn brings greater exposure and more resource. Currently, 93% of UK sports coverage is devoted to men. That’s simply not right. Until women’s sport gets a fair share of broadcast schedules, sportswomen will get less money for competing, even at the same levels as men. That’s why WE have set out clear plans to address the underrepresentation of women in sports broadcasting across all major UK networks, by implementing quotas and incentivising best practice.”
She added: “It’s time we inspire girls and women to see sport as something that they can excel at – and pursue to the same levels of excellence as men, if they wish. We therefore look forward to the FA backing our call for change in football as a first step towards making the beautiful game a fair game for all.”