Lewes FC deliver lengthy verdict as government responds to Karen Carney’s review of women’s football
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In September 2022 the former England player was commissioned by Whitehall to engage in an independent review into the future of domestic women’s football following the Lionesses UEFA Euro 2022 victory.
The Sky pundit’s review, published in July 2023, highlighted a wide range of suggestions, in order too, set out a pathway to a successful and sustainable commercial future for the domestic women’s game.
The report's recommendations sought:
World-leading standards to be applied for players, fans, staff, and everyone in the women's game
Bettering the talent pathway needed to ensure future generations of Lionesses
Professionalisation across the top two tiers to bring in and improve the best players in the world
Bringing attention to the lack of diversity across the women's game, on and off the pitch
Broadcasters to create a new dedicated time slot
Implementation of more methods to support and engage with fans
Equal access to be provided in school sports for girls
More funding in grassroots facilities and improved access for females.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer thanked Carney for her review which had delivered a clear blueprint for the future of women’s football and said: “We are completely committed to delivering equal access to sport for girls in schools, alongside an unprecedented £400 million investment in grassroots facilities outside of school.”
Carney said she was “encouraged that the government is providing their full backing” from her review to develop women’s football into a world-beating sport and that “the real work begins now,” - Carney says it is a “once in a lifetime opportunity to transform domestic women’s football for generations to come.”
Lewes FC – leading campaigners in support of the women’s game – said they welcomed the government’s stance, that “NewCo”, the new entity that will govern elite women’s football should have “a one board principle between the leagues” that would “allow clubs to be represented in equal share.”
As well as backing the Government’s commitment to create an “implementation group composed of stakeholders across the game” which is in line with one of Lewes’ recommendations from their response published in July this year.
Lewes FC said: “As we said at the time, Lewes FC would be happy to take part in any such implementation group. The Lewes FC response in July recommended equalising FA Cup prize money and we welcomed the FA’s recent announcement that the total prize fund would be doubled, to close the gap. We do however query that the increase in funds is to be distributed entirely to the latter rounds of the FA Cup, when already better financed clubs enter the competition.
“We find this decision will not facilitate the Government’s goal of using increased FA Cup money to help ‘provide smaller clubs in particular with additional resources to address the uplifts to minimum standards recommended in the Review’.
“The Government response agrees with the independent review that ‘women’s professional football should ultimately aim to be financially sustainable’. As per our response earlier this year, we are disappointed that financial sustainability is set as an ‘ultimate objective’ rather than a here and now priority.
“The response acknowledges that ‘moving towards immediate licence criteria uplifts across the board, without unlocking increased funding, could threaten clubs’ ability to operate.’
“We are disappointed that the Government ‘understands that some of the uplifts recommended in the Review will come at a significant cost to clubs however we do believe these are the right recommendations to protect the future of the game and those working in it.’
“We believe this position may favour decision-making that facilitates the role of large men’s clubs in women’s football, who are better positioned to spend in the short-term, over the rich tapestry of existing women’s and independent clubs that have been part of the culture and history of the women’s game to date over many decades.
“We would have preferred a more nuanced approach to supporting and financing the women’s football ecosystem with an understanding that demanding that men’s football clubs finance standard setting in the short term, may not actually be the best thing for the game in the medium to long-term without significant culture shift within men’s football to accommodate and understand women’s football and female footballers, staff and fans.
“Once again, we underscore the importance of the independent review on women’s football led by Karen Carney, and we welcome the Government’s engagement to date. We hope that collectively we can co-create a strong, independent women’s football ecosystem that is thriving and autonomous."