Clapton Trailblazers Tap into Fans to Beat Rivals and Close Women’s Financial Gap | Women’s England Cup
ohOn Sunday, Clapton Community FC will become the first Seventh Division team to advance to the Women‘s FA Cup third round when they travel south to face Plymouth Argyle. By beating Hounslow 3-1 on penalties, Premier League club Greater London became the first to beat a side four levels higher in the competition.
But instead of being rewarded for their success or receiving funds to further support the impressive development of the London club, Clapton found himself at a loss.
The huge gap between the cash prizes given out to teams competing in the men’s and women’s FA Cups means they will only earn £ 1,250 if they win, in stark contrast to the £ 82,000 offered to men’s teams at the same stadium .
“We are reaping the rewards of the success of the Women’s Super League,” said Alice Nutman, the club’s captain. “But if you have that success at the top, that means it’s going to have a lower training impact. We’re going to see more and more girls and young people playing football, and if we don’t have an investment in at this stage, if we don’t have viable options for them to get into football, then investing in the top is pointless. Top-down development, spin-off economy, we know they don’t work, and so do. the same goes in football.
Nutman adds, “We are not asking for equal pay. It is a myth. We are asking for grassroots investments and we are asking for spaces in which women and non-binary people can play football, which currently does not exist.
“Unfortunately when the FA is the body that has banned women’s football for 50 years then you have to do things to reverse that and, at the moment, that is not happening. For anyone level three and below, that money makes a huge difference.
“It means you don’t live from hand to mouth every month. We are struggling to pay for our training ground. It is the reality of playing grassroots football in this country as a woman.
Created in 2018 by fans and players unhappy with the leadership of Clapton FC, Clapton Community FC is owned by the fans and pioneering a different way of doing things. For fans who have fallen in love with the commercialism of the game, clubs like Clapton offer something different and Nutman believes breaking the mold is what women’s football should try to do more often.
“This is the next step for women’s football, not to try to adapt to the same model. We can’t adapt the same model because we haven’t played for such a long time [due to the ban]. So it’s a question of how to achieve the same elite level and the same level of commitment in a better way. “
Having the ideological commitment to what the club does has been vital during their extraordinary FA Cup run. A large and active fan base believes in Clapton’s success off the pitch as much as on it.
“The fact that we are a fan-owned club means that a lot of [the financial difficulties caused by FA Cup progress] were hidden from the players, ”says Nutman. “There were a lot of struggles behind the scenes to get the cheapest possible transport, to find accommodation. It’s organized by people who own and have a stake in the club. The teams that are higher are in very similar situations, nor do they have the funding from the FA that is going to make this possible.
To keep up with the skyrocketing costs, being pulled out every round, Clapton launched a crowdfunding appeal which topped the target of £ 3,000 in two days and now exceeds £ 4,000.
“We are very, very grateful to everyone,” said Sophia Axelsson, who also plays and leads the financial strategy for the women’s first team. “But it also came at a very, very difficult time for us because we also launched a fundraiser to build locker rooms on our field, which we don’t have. If we had been the men, we could have already built these locker rooms with the success that we have had. But because we are women, we have to fundraise for literally everything we do in the club.
Against Hounslow, with a 0-0 score at the break, confidence suddenly leaked into the squad. “We didn’t know until we played the game that this would be the first time a team has done it,” Nutman said. “And I’m glad we didn’t, because that would have added to our nervousness.
“Just like this weekend against Plymouth, it looks like something that shouldn’t happen. It sounds like something we shouldn’t be able to do. But the FA Cup means we play 90 minutes, anything can happen. This is why football is so glorious.
If they beat Plymouth, the fourth round could see them drawn against a WSL team. “The whole idea of being successful is being able to live the dreams we had when we were 20 years younger than now. Most of the team are in their 30s,” says Nutman. Axelsson adds, “I would be lying. If I said some of our players hadn’t dreamed of it already, having a home game against Arsenal and having their team’s bus in our community locker room in Walthamstow would be pretty amazing.
“We would like to continue this journey we are on, this adventure, we create memories for life. We are very proud of the progress made so far. If we could go even further, it would just mean the world.