We are delighted to have Lewes FC Chairman, Stuart Fuller, as a speaker at the Women in Sport Summit.
Did you know?
Lewes Football Club is a pioneer for equality!
Lewes FC is the first pro or semi-pro club in the world committed to equal pay for both their male and female players. This is a huge stride for gender equality in the sports industry and makes the club stand out from the crowd. Lewes FC is being recognised for their efforts to advance diversity and inclusion by receiving huge support by SKINS.
I am excited to introduce this first instalment of the “Eye on the ball” blog series; where we sat down with Kevin Miller, Head of Commercial of Lewes FC.
Kevin shares his insight into running a community club that challenges the traditional structures of football, striving for equality, the prominent rise of female football over the past years, and the future of sports.
What are the key differences between managing a community club VS a traditional club?
Lewes FC is 100% owned by its fans and the local community, with each owner being allowed one share and one vote. The volunteer Board of Directors are also owners, and have sought election by offering a manifesto to be voted on by the owners. So any major shifts in policy; structure, re-development indeed any significant club decisions, are put to the ownership and voted on accordingly. A traditional model is run by investors and ‘owned' by a person, company or conglomerate, so their decision making is autonomous. That board can dictate policy and the future of the club.
As this is a more traditional way of running what is, in essence, an events company, it makes sense... the only time that it doesn’t work, is when those in charge don’t have the vision, the cash, or the competence - perhaps a combination of all three - to make it work. Our model means that we cannot do anything that alters the club’s destiny without permission - and a democratic vote. The number of owners by the way is not exhaustive, and only costs £30 per year.
Does this present an opportunity for women to get involved with the business of sports?
As the women’s game re-establishes itself in this country (around 100 years ago women’s football in this country was as popular as men’s, with women’s matches regularly attended by 40-50,000 people) there will be more opportunities.
These opportunities will not just be for young girl footballers who now have an emerging pathway from school through to professional first team, but also for female administrators, marketers, referee’s, managers, coaches - the Football Association Women’s Super League will be expanding in the next few years, opening the doors for more clubs to emerge, thus bringing new people to the game both on and off the pitch. By our own EqualityFC stance, we have made a start.
How do you see your efforts impacting the sport?
In July ’17 we announced that from the ’17/ ’18 season Lewes Football Club will be the first pro or semi-pro club anywhere in the world to pay its women’s first team the same as its men’s.
"The impact that this has made, and the subsequent debate in the women’s game, has set a marker down."
In late summer the Norwegian FA announced that the National women’s team will be paid the same as its men, and clubs all around the world are now looking to their women’s teams as potential rather than peripheral. We haven't done anything radical, just addressed an unnecessary anomaly, and from the reaction from businesses - regional, national and international - it has been a huge catalyst for change.
What do you think the future of women is in sports and the business of sports?
When a man and woman enter the world of sports, there should be no difference between their chance of success. It’s the job of those already within sport to make the changes to enable that to happen equally; to inspire change; to level the playing field and...
"... to encourage those who wish to enter the sport to do so because of their talent and ability, not their sex, colour, disability or gender."
Sport is changing rapidly; the commercial rise of e-sports is changing the way young people look at sport - the millennial generation are becoming choosier about what they watch, consume or try as an activity. So our role is to present a unified approach and create the conditions so that young people can enjoy sports for leisure, or as a career on or off the pitch in a positive way, ready to inspire future generations.
Image Credits: James Boyes