Chelsea manager Emma Haye has spoken about the bigger meaning behind Sunday’s Women’s FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley, which falls on the 100th anniversary of the FA banning the women’s game from being played at football league grounds.
That ban lasted for half a century until 1971 and irreversibly changed the women’s game, which had been rapidly growing in popularity in the early years of the 20th century.
This will now be the seventh consecutive FA Cup final that has been played at Wembley and more than 45,000 tickets have been sold, making a new record attendance in the competition likely.
Hayes insists the contest between Chelsea and Arsenal under the arch about much more than just the two squads of players and staff involved on the day.
“This is great for people that have been involved in the women’s game from the onset,” she said. “This is the showpiece event, yes we’re two fabulous teams both vying to win, but the FA Cup final is about history, and making more history, but the recognition of everybody who has come before.
“I think to have the game on a poignant date in the women’s football calendar is critical and one that must serve as a reminder that this game won’t be banned again, never.
“It’s only going to grown and get better. This game this weekend is about every single person who has made sure that women’s football is a permanent fixture in everybody’s life.”
Hayes is an enormous champion of development at every level in the women’s game and has said that prize money in the FA Cup has to be increased for all competitors because if it still ‘nowhere near enough’ to drive investment lower down the league ladder as it does in the men’s game.
“More prize money for everyone, not just the winning team,” she said. “Why is it that we don’t get more prize money? We need more money being invested that can trickle all the way down.
“It’s the same with TV money, that journey has begun, but when it comes to prize money? I don’t think it is anywhere near what it should be and it’s nowhere near what the men’s game is.
“If we want to invest in our game further down, we need that money, as well as I think just continuing to provide more opportunities at grassroots level. I always say this, girls don’t travel to play football like boys do and I see that in the lack of diversity in our game.”
Hayes also believes that lack of diversity can be tackled with funding and investment, but the initiatives need to be specially tailored to girls’ and women’s football.
“It happens because we’re not getting picked up on school buses, and I’m talking about inner-city kids here,” the Chelsea boss explained. “There are scores of girls who aren’t going to get on buses and trains to come to Cobham, or Arsenal, or everybody else.
“We need to have more inner-city funded projects. We need to come up with better ways to create solutions for girls and women, not just all modelled on the boys’ and men’s game. That’s what I’m passionate about and feel that, for us to go another step further in our game, we have to get it right, we have to have more diversity than we have now.”