My colleague David introduced me to Rhian Cleverly who is captain of Womens’ Championship football team Lewes FC. “The Rooks” as they are known, have enjoyed have a tremendous season and Rhian talked through her career to date. The highs and lows.
I don’t really follow football, when he said Rhian plays at Centre Half. I said “No David! …I read up on her, she is in fact a defender…” I could see by his reaction that I may have got it wrong (he says they are the same thing, but I think I know who is really right!!)
The little I know about football is that it has a very chequered history in equality, fair play and being straight-forward. In fact the initiative “Financial Fair Play” implemented a number of years ago with the lofty aim of bringing a more level playing field to professional clubs, has ironically, probably led to the exact opposite in real terms.
Back to Rhian…. She is a very special person who plays for a very special team. I asked her about their nickname “Equality FC”. I read something on their website that they are the only football team in the UK (possibly globally) that pays their men and women exactly the same. I told her this was a great thing that other organisations both commercial and public sector could learn from. Then she said something that blew my mind, she told me that pay is really only one element of Equality and it is what people focus on but it needs to be deeper and wider.
She said Lewes FC ensure that both men and women train and play on the same pitches, use the same training facilities, the same transport to matches. The physios are the same, the nutrition, diet, conditioning work everything is on a level playing field, literally! That the management board is representative of the teams and vice versa. Their General Manager is the amazing, force of nature Maggie Murphy, look her up on youtube. She has a very different view on the world. Underpinning this philosophy is that Lewes FC is fan-owned, so no shady owners that never turn up to the stadium or sovereign states that flood football clubs with cash. No, the people that own it are the people that support the club, it creates a virtuous circle. I was falling in love with football, Lewes FC’s brand of it.
She admitted that as Lewes FC improve and move up the leagues, the challenges and pressures may change but the bedrock of the club is there and she cannot see a time when they will reverse what they have to chase tv money. I hope so.
I would encourage you to look at their website, pop on Youtube and hear what Maggie has to say. You can watch Mike Calvin’s film ‘Ours’ on BT and probably on other streaming services, which has both Rhian and Maggie talking about the club and of course you can even attend a game at the Dripping Pan ground in Lewes. (Yes, it is really called that!!)
Let me know your thoughts on Equality FC, is this the template for all organisations? [email protected]
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