Stephen Hunt’s public exposé of West Ham United’s lack of support for the women’s team that plays in the club’s name may – or may not – have done the Hammers Ladies a big favour.
The directors’ swift decision to take the autonomous – but related – club formally into the ample bosom of the West Ham family after being reported to the FA by West Ham Ladies’ chairman for alleged equality rules breaches, needs now to be followed by tangible, measurable commitment, as well as nice words, if the team are to reap the benefits.
Whether the players get the facilities – not to mention kit – befitting of a team with Super League ambitions, remains to be seen.
But even if the returns are not as great as the club’s promises, Stephen Hunt is widely regarded as having done women’s football a big service in highlighting, in an eye-catching way, the clear disparity – indeed, the gulf – between funding of the men’s and women’s games.
While West Ham United and Hunt were coming to a hurried settlement – which involved the latter, his co-chairman father, John, and chief operating officer brother Tim walking away from the Ladies after less than two years at the helm – his counterpart at Portsmouth, Mick Williams, was having a similar conversation with Fratton Park officials.
— Mick Williams (@mickwill) October 10, 2016
With League Two Portsmouth not quite in the same financial position as West Ham, those talks have not yet borne fruit, but a new round of discussions is set for the coming week, and such negotiations could become a more common feature on the landscape of women’s football in the coming months and years – music to Hunt’s ears.
At the same time, over at Lewes, a community club with a difference (though when it comes to funding, not necessarily that different) it’s time for the election of the board of directors.
And one current board member conceivably could, at a stroke, transform that landscape in one astonishing pitch for re-election.
Ed Ramsden admits in his bid for a third term that he devotes less time to the club than any of his fellow directors and that he attends “almost none” of the matches – but that does not stop him calling for a financial revolution that could have repercussions throughout football.
He has pledged to “do everything that I can” to ensure that Lewes Football Club provide equal budgets for their men’s and women’s teams from next season.
Ramsden says he is not looking to cut the budget of the men’s team, who play in Ryman League Division One South – the eighth tier of the men’s game.
Rather, he wants to generate extra income to enable Lewes to bring the funding and resources of Lewes Ladies – who play in the third tier of the women’s game – up to the men’s level.
He argues that the very nature of his revolutionary plan will attract investment that would not otherwise be available to the club and also encourage more people to become joint-owners (at a cost of £30 a year).
“My guess is that there will be people who want to commit money to support us in taking this step,” he says. “If 2,500 new owners join, then we will have created the new revenue needed to equalise the playing budgets from this alone.”
According to the club’s website, there are currently around 900 owners, some of whom have contributed substantially more than the £30 required for a year’s ownership, so his figures look quite ambitious.
He argues that re-electing him on the “pay parity” ticket will amount to expressing that policy as the collective will of the owners, although he points out he will be only one of 10 directors – ironically, mirroring almost exactly the current funding difference between the genders at the Dripping Pan.
But his philosophy has captured the imagination of many at the club, including fellow director and head of women’s football at Lewes, Jacquie Agnew, who described Ramsden’s pitch as “a real game changer”, and another candidate for the new board, club secretary Jane Roberts.
— Jane Roberts (@redtop63) October 15, 2016
Although not all current owners are yet convinced.
@Rookmeister I have. It says someone will give us the money. The economics of Cornyn. To be fair perhaps it will be Ed in the short term
— Michael McDowall (@sedlescombemike) October 16, 2016
On Ramsden’s figures, it would seem the club would need to make up an annual shortfall approaching £75,000 for his pledge to be achieved, presumably through people with the vision to look beyond the respective matchday incomes generated by the two genders – the men’s team attract of the order of three times the attendance of the women – to the longer-term benefits of treating an ambitious bunch of footballers and their loyal following with the even-handedness they might be afforded in a non-sport environment.
With seven candidates standing for five places, in the interests of fairness, here is a list of all candidates and their manifestos.