Lewes FC fan Paul Sheppard celebrates footballing equality in new novel

Lewes FC fan Paul Sheppard has published Bea on the Ball, a Lewes-based story about 15-year-old Beatriz who wants to be a top goal-scorer for Lewes FC.

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 7:05 am
Paul Sheppard (author) at the Pan with Paula Howells (Lewes FC Women midfielder) reading 'Bea on the Ball'
Paul Sheppard (author) at the Pan with Paula Howells (Lewes FC Women midfielder) reading 'Bea on the Ball'

Aimed at young adults, the book follows Bea’s life as she copes with her self-image, her friendships, her school and her dad.

It is author Paul’s first novel and was inspired by Lewes FC’s Equality FC campaign through which they became the first club in the world to assign equal playing budgets to both first teams in 2017, valuing women and girl footballers just as much as men and boys.

In the novel Bea is discovered by the club whilst managing some challenging circumstances, strong feelings and interesting characters.

Paul said: “I’ve been an owner of Lewes FC for some years now and have always been a scribbler, mostly of short stories.

“This book was born out of lockdown, about a young footballer because football is in my blood. At first I was going to write about a boy, but then – thinking about Equality FC – I thought why not tell a new story, a different story? And since I couldn’t find any books about girls who played football in the bookshops, I decided I had to write Bea on the Ball.

Lewes director Karen Dobres said: “When Lewes FC began its equality campaign we hoped to start a movement and inspire people so it’s brilliant to see Bea on the Ball in bookshops! It’s a wonderful read, showing girls that there is a place for them in football too. And we all have a great stereotype-busting role model in Bea – she’s full of gutsy determination, on the ball on and off the pitch, and a character who really trusts herself.”

Bea on the Ball is available from all book shops and online at £9.99, and also at The Dripping Pan in Lewes.

Paul used to be a social worker and a probation officer. He has published short stories and poetry prior to writing Bea on the Ball.

In July 2017, Lewes FC became the first professional or semi-professional football club to pay its women’s team the same as its men’s team, as part of its Equality FC campaign. In an unprece-dented move, Lewes FC established a sustainable model of funding to support the women’s and men’s football teams on an equal basis.

Lewes FC is one of the only clubs in the UK where both the men’s and women’s teams play at the same home ground, The Dripping Pan in Lewes.

The women’s first XI play in the Championship League (the second tier of women’s football) but their ambition is to win promotion to the Women’s Super League and to play at the highest level of the sport.

Lewes FC, which was formed in 1885, is a 100 per cent community owned and not-for-profit football club. The club is led by directors elected by its 1,700-plus owners. It costs £40 per year to become an owner.