While much of the footballing world was patting itself on the back on Wednesday over the historic sponsorship deal struck between Barclays and the FA WSL that would see ‘millions’ pumped into the game, my first thought reading there would be a £500k prize pot was, ‘huh, is that all?’
It sure is a lot of money to normal people, but football isn’t normal.
It is a game that rewards men’s failure to the tune of £1.9m. That’s how much West Brom got for finishing bottom of the Premier League last season, and that was just their prize money. The Premier League cash-cow handed them over £94m for a season of utter dross that resulted in relegation.
But sure, £500k. Yay!
I can hear you in the back. ‘These things take time,’ you’re shouting. Baby steps, baby steps. Except that’s not really true, is it? When the powers that be decided they were going to take the men’s old, dull Division 1, sprinkle it with some fairy dust and sell it off to the highest bidder they transformed it almost overnight.
And let’s not pretend like women’s football just arrived on this planet five minutes ago. Women were drawing crowds that matched, and even exceeded, the men’s game before the FA decided to ban women from playing for fifty years.
Yes, £500k is a start. But that’s all it is.
While this sponsorship grabs the headlines, Yeovil Town Ladies, an FA WSL side, are facing the prospect of a double-relegation due to financial troubles.
Add their name to Sunderland, Doncaster Belles, Sheffield Ladies, Oxford, Watford and Notts County, who folded, as sides who couldn’t afford to go fully professional and thus weren’t eligible to play in the top tier. One top Premier League player’s salary for one week could transform an entire women’s team.
But sure, £500k. Less than Alexis Sanchez is paid to do nothing every seven days at Manchester United. Yay!
The blueprint for success, with the demand to match, is there if any of the men running the game wants to apply it.
Don’t let them think this is all the women’s game is worth.