The total prize fund for the Women’s FA Cup will increase from £3million to £6m thanks to new Football Association investment.
However, it is not the upper tiers of women’s football that will benefit most from the raise.
The winner of the competition will now receive £538,000 compared to last year’s £150,000 reward.
But there is also increased funding across the third, fourth and fifth rounds, as well as in the quarter and semi-finals of the FA Cup.
The 12 teams who compete in the WSL do not join until the fourth round of the competition while the Championship teams begin competing in the third round proper.
The prize pot for the third round proper has risen from £250,000 to £880,000, while the prize money for the fourth round proper has gone from £300,000 to £1,072,000. Teams will pocket £44,000 per match for playing in the third round and £67,000 in the fourth round.
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And it is this increased funding at the earlier stages which will make the biggest difference when it comes to significantly growing women’s football.
Currently, only the WSL – the top-tier of women’s football in England – is a fully professional league which means players in the Championship still sometimes have other jobs whilst playing for their clubs.
The 28 teams who compete in the third round proper are from leagues below the Championship, meaning the vast majority of third round participants are non-professional clubs.
The fact that there is a significant increase in funding even for teams who do not reach the latter stages means non-professional clubs will receive a financial boost whether or not they overachieve in the competition.
Even a club that loses in the third round proper, for example, will earn £9,000 this season instead of the £2,500 they would have earned last season.
Undoubtedly, the increase will be welcomed by WSL clubs, who will most likely dominate the latter rounds and almost certainly win the competition, barring a miracle cup run.
But for a non-professional club whose members are likely working one or more other jobs to sustain their footballing careers, an increase in funding is hugely significant.
Last season, the FA’s increase in funding was directed at the first qualifying round through to second round proper in order to benefit clubs competing at lower levels – evidence that the FA understands where support is crucially needed.
In July 2023, ex-Lioness Karen Carney published her long-awaited review into the future of domestic women’s football in England.
In her report, she recommended that the Women’s Championship be made a fully professional league in order to facilitate real growth in the women’s game.
Baroness Sue Campbell, Director of Women’s Football at the FA, said the raise was part of a long-term plan to invest in the many tiers of women’s football.
She said: “Doubling the prize money showcases The FA’s clear commitment to the future of the Women’s FA Cup and will help us maintain its stature as the most prestigious domestic women’s cup competition in the world.
“That’s why we’re delighted to be making a second successive increase to the prize fund, ensuring that as clubs progress through the competition they receive financial rewards that will empower them to invest in their own futures.
“Ultimately, we want the women’s competition to receive the same prize money as the men’s, and this new increase is a positive step in the direction of achieving that long-term ambition.”
The total prize pot for the Men’s FA Cup will remain at £19,829,800 this season – still more than three times that of the women’s tournament.
But for the first time ever, the Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium last season sold out as a record crowd of 77,390 turned up to watch Chelsea defeat Manchester United 1-0.
A similar crowd will be expected for the final this season as WSL attendances continue to rise.
But for Championship and lower-tier clubs, this increased funding is the next step towards professionalisation and a future in which women’s football is a viable full-time career.
The first round of Women’s FA Cup fixtures starts on the weekend of the 11th and 12th November.
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