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OPINION: Women’s FA Cup Final sell-out was major step, but the disparity in prize money remains burning issue

Women’s football has been forced to bat away numerous outlandish and unwarranted sexist claims in recent years, but the days of arguing the sport can’t attract interest are long gone.

Sunday saw a record attendance descend on Wembley Way as the historic ground played host to the Women’s FA Cup final and a sold-out crowd.

Wembley Stadium is the elite of the elite. The pinnacle of English football. The venue everyone wants to play at.

From the iconic arch, to the picturesque grass that is cut, trimmed and watered to perfection. No inch of detail is missed. No inch of detail can be missed.

Brushing your studs on the hallowed turf is a privilege afforded to very few, and the occasion is monumental.

So, when 77,000 supporters turned out to watch Chelsea Women beat Manchester United Women and lift their third successive FA Cup trophy, thanks to a Sam Kerr goal, it felt pivotal. It felt like the most positive step forward since the England Lionesses lifted the European Championship last summer.

It was no surprise that it was Kerr who made the difference. After all, the Australian’s 68th minute strike was her fifth FA Cup final goal following back-to-back braces in 2021 and 2022. She is the ultimate big-game player, which no doubt played a major role in her winning a second consecutive FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year award earlier this month.

But, amidst the jubilant and euphoric mood at Wembley, a deeper issue was at play. An issue that remains prevalent in the women’s game.

After masterminding glory against Manchester United, praise was deservedly heaped on Emma Hayes’ shoulders, but her side were rewarded with just £100,000 in prize money for winning the tournament. It’s worth noting that was a huge increase from the £25,000 they earned in 2022, but the disparity in prize funds between genders remains a pertinent problem.

By comparison, the winner of Manchester City versus Manchester United in the men’s final in June will receive £2 million. The loser will still have the consolation of a mere £1m to soften the blow of crushing defeat.

Furthermore, the 30 teams who played in the fourth round of the men’s FA Cup were guaranteed a minimum of £105,000 – more than Chelsea Women earned for winning the competition.

Interest in the sport has been the go-to excuse for the huge gap in prize funds for several years, with the women’s game attracting far less attendance and TV viewership than the men’s game. That remains the case, but selling out Wembley proves that interest is on the rise and shows the sport is more than capable of selling tickets at the most well-known venue in English sport. It’s not yet on a parallel to the men’s game, but women’s football clearly has a market, and that market needs to be exploited.

Filling Wembley is a historic step for women’s football in England, but the discrepancy in the investment between the two FA Cup competitions remains a massive concern and it must be fixed soon.

The women’s game won’t reach its potential unless it’s given financial backing, and it has almost reached its peak until major investment is provided by the FA. For now, the ball remains in their court.

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