Sister Clubs are doing it for themselves in football world

Vicky Carleton in action for Lewes FC Woman against Charlton Athletic. Photograph by James Boyes
Vicky Carleton in action for Lewes FC Woman against Charlton Athletic. Photograph by James Boyes

Lewes FC Women has won a coveted place on the FA programme designed to grow women’s football and increase girls’ participation at grassroots level in Sussex.

Lewes, which has just been promoted to the second highest tier of women’s football, competed with 12 other clubs in the Championship League for only six Sister Club Programme places.

The club won FA funding last month and has now appointed a Sister Club Programme Officer. Vicky Carleton, who is one of the first team players, will work closely with girls’ football clubs in Sussex to develop the initiative.

Vicky said: “I think this programme will encourage more girls to play football locally and inspire them to possibly one day play for Lewes in the championship or higher.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for clubs in Sussex to get more involved with Lewes FC. Women’s football is becoming more popular, so it is a good time to get girls’ teams around the county involved in the sport.

“Football helps girls to learn teamwork skills and offers opportunities to network. It keeps them fit and helps boost self-esteem – which is increasingly important for young women.”

The Sussex County FA welcomed the initiative. Clare Nichols, Football Development Officer, said: “We are delighted that Lewes FC Women has been selected to run the FA Sister Club Programme and we have already been in talks with the club to see how we can support this project.

“We would like to see more girls getting involved in football and believe participation in this programme will encourage grassroots growth of the game and inspire more girls to take part. What’s more, the FA is offering Sister Club girls the chance to become England Women’s mascots, to take part in the Sister Club Parade at the SSE FA Cup Final and to receive signed Lionesses shirts!”

Lewes FC Director Charlie Dobres said: “The Sister Club Programme offers a great opportunity for us to develop our already established links with local girls’ teams. We already host an annual Football Festival for girls, in partnership with the Russell Martin Foundation, and we have helped set up the Football Academy within Cardinal Newman Sixth Form College in Brighton.

“FA funding will enable us to build on these foundations, and expand our links with local clubs, increasing participation in girls’ football. In turn, we hope this will boost women’s home match attendances and we have some incredibly exciting matches coming up this month.”

This Sunday (September 16) Lewes entertain Arsenal at 2pm, on September 19 they play Crystal Palace and on September 23 face Leicester City. See lewesfcwomen.com for ticket information.

Last summer, the club became the first professional or semi-professional football club to pay its women’s team the same as its men’s team, as part of its Equality FC campaign. In an unprecedented move, Lewes FC established a sustainable model of funding to support the women’s and men’s football teams on an equal basis.