Liverpool FC Women: A Reality Check Shouldn't Come From Relegation
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
Sports are slowly trying to find a way to restart amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Premier League, NWSL, NHL, and NBA are all finalizing plans to restart their seasons so they can end and still be financially viable. The FA Women's Super League, on the other hand, has decided against restarting their season, instead electing to cancel the remaining matches.
The Liverpool Women's team had eight matches left to play, including two that had to be rescheduled due to weather and pitch problems. Those remaining matches and the places on the table were decided through a points per game system, and considering Liverpool have only won one game this season, that system saw them relegated to the Championship League for the first time.
While at Liverpool Offside, I covered the problems with the Women's team for a long time. When they lost practically their entire squad in 2018 and their brand new manager it became pretty clear that something was rotten on the Red side of Merseyside. Even as they attempted to put a new coat of paint on things -- including dressing rooms -- and trot the Women's team out like PR props on the United States Summer Tour, there was no indication from the front office at Liverpool FC that the Women's team were being supported in the way that they needed.
And now they've been relegated, after being a founding a club of the FA WSL back in 2010. After being back to back champions in 2013 and 2014.
That, of course, was the past and is not the present. The present is that Liverpool FC have spent so much time focusing on the Men's team and the Academy, that their Women's team have essentially become "Tranmere Women" as some rival players refer to them due to sharing the facilities with League One side Tranmere Rovers. Something that will be increasingly tricky as the Rovers are experiencing their own relegation problems.
Some outlets have finally realized that this has been happening. The Guardian wrote about the news of Liverpool's relegation on Friday, including that "blaming [Manager Vicky] Jepson for the poor results would be easy. The real blame lies at the feet of disinterested owners who have allowed their women’s team to implode while their men’s team thrives." Neil Atkinson of The Anfield Wrap acknowledged their own failings to cover the team as thoroughly.
Both expressed ideas that hopefully this relegation would be a "wake up call" to the owners of the team. That would also be wrong. These problems have existed long before this year, just as the team has. I would know, I've been covering the team and the problems for a lot longer than this year. Relegation is the biggest consequence of the neglect that this team has suffered, it's true, but to expect the club to see that as an epiphany that now they should be paying attention and fixing the problems that encouraged a whole squad to leave in 2018 is disappointing at best.
After the news of the relegation came out, Liverpool released a statement expressing their own disappointment in the league's decision to end without playing the remaining games. The statement also essentially went about blaming everyone else - including the league - for letting them get relegated, than themselves. In truth, blame shouldn't even be placed on the team who have only ever done their best with the tools and resources provided to them. They are all part time players, forced to split their priorities between their playing careers and their real lives. That is a choice by the club, who prided themselves on also having the first full time team in the league a long time ago.
This team isn't the one that should be punished, and relegation shouldn't be that punishment. There should be some kind of punishment for the CEO and the owners, although I'm not sure what that would be. And that's almost the worst part. This team will languish under that because to them, there is no other incentive to do the right thing. It's been pretty clear from the get-go that no one likes to spend money to make money. But that's exactly what the Women's team needs - not even in players, but in resources. Marketing, promotional efforts, higher standards of resources and staff, yes all these things cost money that likely won't be returned immediately, but are integral to the growth of the Women's team and the game as a whole. Rival clubs like Chelsea (the Champions of the season), Manchester City, and even Everton have already seen the returns of those investments.
Although, it's pretty easy for the club to drop a staggering £50 million on a brand new training center for the academy and Men's team, that doesn't include the Women's team. Until that frame of mind changes at the club, with Peter Moore and the owners, nothing is going to change.