A new three-year partnership with Vitality for the Women’s FA Cup “demonstrates the power of women’s football”, says the Football Association’s Kelly Simmons.
The partnership will bring “significant investment” to the competition.
Vitality hopes to help the FA “drive more visibility” to the women’s game.
“We want [the FA Cup] to be the biggest cup competition in the world for women’s sport,” added Simmons, director of the women’s professional game.
“Bringing a major brand in at this moment demonstrates the power of women’s football and where the game is, and that brands and other partners want to get involved.
“It’s been well documented we’ve had a lot of commercial interest in the WSL [Women’s Super League] as well. It says strongly where women’s football is at. It’s on a big growth trajectory and every aspect of it is growing rapidly.”
This year’s postponed Women’s FA Cup final is set to be held at Wembley on 31 October, with the quarter-finals, originally scheduled for 15 March, taking place on the weekend of 26-27 September.
“We have got ambitions to sell out Wembley in the future,” said Simmons. “It’s the big moment in the domestic calendar so we were really excited by Vitality’s help to continue to grow that interest.
“You would think at the moment that sport sponsorship would be a difficult space to try and get new partners in because nobody knows the true impact yet of Covid-19 – in every industry and every walk of life.
“This just demonstrates even more so than usual, their commitment to women’s sport and women’s football and where women’s football is at in this country, that it can bring a big brand in, investing significantly right now, in this climate.”
Prize money will be ‘part of the review’
Former England defender Alex Scott, who has been named as a new Vitality ambassador, said winning the FA Cup with Arsenal at Wembley in 2016 was “the highlight of my career”, adding that the final “has always and will always be the showpiece event in women’s football”.
“We’re at a fantastic place but we still want to keep growing it,” added Scott. “I can continue my role to make the game and players as visible as they can, to help develop our sport.”
In January, clubs told BBC Sport that Women’s FA Cup prize money in the early rounds was not sufficient to cover away-tie costs and in August, seventh-tier Lewes FC called for prize money from the men’s competition to be redistributed to lower-league and women’s clubs this season to help prevent them from “going out of existence”.
Asked whether the investment would help towards equal prize money in the competition, Simmons said: “This is obviously day one of a brand new partnership so we need to look at where we can take this investment and deliver the best value in terms of our aspirations around building and developing the Women’s FA Cup.
“The prize fund will be part of that review so we’ll have to do that piece of work.”