Are semi-professional football players paid

The first football club that pays men and women equally

If you stroll through the picturesque south-east English town of Lewes, you will soon find a poster in the shop windows of shops and houses advertising the next game of the local football club. The figure in the center front is neither a player nor a coach, but Emmeline Pankhurst, a women's rights activist who campaigned in the early 20th century to ensure that women in Great Britain were allowed to vote. The poster advertises Lewes FC's away game. on May 11 at Manchester United. It is part of a campaign to celebrate remarkable women from the cities of their opponents in the "FA Women's Championship", England's second division of women's football.

It's more than just a gesture: Lewes, a small town with just 17,000 inhabitants around ten kilometers outside the southern English coastal city of Brighton, is home to the first and so far only professional or semi-professional football club that has made a public commitment to its male and female players to pay immediately. The club calls its project "Equality FC".

Women's team budget increased

Before the start of the 2017/18 season, when the Lewes FC women's team played in the third division and the men's team in the eighth division, the club announced that "both teams will have the same budget, without any discrimination". Lewes' men's team now plays in the seventh division of English football. The club's players are part-time footballers and earn between 150 and 200 British pounds (approx. 175 to 235 euros). In order to achieve parity, the community-owned club increased the women's team's budget instead of reducing the salaries of the male players.

For striker Jess King, who previously played in Norway, Germany, Switzerland and other English clubs, it is crucial that the nails were nailed here: "I think it's good that the club really promotes equality. Most of them In places where I used to be, it was said: 'We do this and that for women'. But the words that women have equal rights are not followed by action. The respect that I really feel here was missing. "

Goalscorer Jess King celebrates a goal for Lewes FC

Since the start of the gender equality campaign, the number of spectators in the 134-year-old stadium, which is dominated by the chalk cliffs of the "South Downs", has increased five-fold for women’s games. They are now on a similar level as the men's team, whose games want to see an average of 600 spectators.

Trainers with a big name

For 30 pounds (35 euros) you can become a member of Lewes FC and have a say in the future of the club. The feeling that anything is possible here prevails on the club's premises, especially on the women's side - not least since we managed to win Fran Alonso as coach of the women's team. The Spaniard worked in the Premier League for years: in Everton under Mauricio Pochettino, the current coach of the Champions League semi-finalist Tottenham Hotspur, and in Southhampton under Ronald Koeman, today's national coach of the Netherlands. At some point, Alonso Koeman asked if he could coach the Southhampton women's team. The fact that such a small club like Lewes FC was able to sign such an experienced, qualified and highly motivated coach was a real coup.

Women coach fan Alonso

"The fact that I could have earned 20 times more in the men's fourth or fifth division than in the women's second division didn't matter to me," says Alonso. The project and its message were important to him. "The better we are on the pitch, the more people ask: 'How did you do it? How do you do it, even though you pay women like men? It's actually impossible. Women don't generate the same turnover.' We will cross borders, we will question the status quo and then people will start to believe in it. "

Great economic potential

Karen Dobres leads the gender equality campaign and underscores the club's role as a pioneer in promoting equality both on and off the pitch: "Other clubs will not be able to pay their wives the same as their men. Take Manchester United, for example - they pay their husbands such high salaries. But at least they should plan on doing it. " If those responsible had the intention in their minds in every decision they made, one would also approach the goal of doing something for women's football. "Because there is so much potential there. It's a moral, but also an economic decision. Men's football is a saturated market, while women's football, on the other hand, is a new product that has not yet been exhausted."

Still a long way to go

Both attacker Jess King and manager Karen Dobres report experiences of subliminal sexism. Abroad, she couldn't even buy the football boots that her male colleagues would have received for free, says Kind: "I thought: 'You want to keep me from buying your shoes?' So I just threw the shoes on the floor and left. I was pissed off. " In their experience, the male players are more open-minded, the prejudices are cultivated in the club tops. Headwind for Lewes FC's gender equality campaign was more likely to come from anonymous authors on social networks than from real fans, players or club officials, says Dobres.

Almost two years after the initiative started, Lewes FC still appears to be the only club that pays men and women equally. "We don't want to put anyone down for not doing it," said Dobres. "But we want to influence him and set a good example. Many other clubs probably think we're a bit crazy. Who pays women the same as men? But they won't think that way for long, because women's football is growing massively."