Liverpool FC Women: Two Teams, One Club; Two Matches, One Coverage
This weekend presented a predicament that I wasn’t super prepared for.
The Liverpool FC Men’s team played on Saturday, with the Women’s team playing on Sunday.
If it had been one team or the other, I probably would’ve tried to do a more proper recap or review of the match and left it at that.
I even thought about only covering the Women’s match because first of all they won, and by a considerable scoreline but secondly, there is not enough media coverage of the Women’s team in general. While many national publications are starting to notice that something is rotten on that side of the Mersey, part of that is because there is so little media coverage given to women’s sports in general. Some 4% of all media coverage is dedicated to women athletes, despite 40% of all athletes being female.
Would you write a men’s team recap, knowing all that?
Knowing that means 96% of all media coverage is already dedicated to male athletes?
Even when I wrote for the Liverpool Offside, I started covering the Women’s team because there was a startling lack of coverage, just everywhere. Even the official website would put up match reports but that was about it. It almost felt to me as if I decided, “well no one else is doing it, so I will.”
Sunday’s match was worth covering, too — or at least it looked like it. That is also one of the problems with covering women’s sports; they’re largely ignored and inaccessible. Sunday’s Liverpool match against the London Bees wasn’t streamed anywhere, wasn’t broadcasted on any networks. If a fan were to look for footage from it, they would have to wait until the next day to see the highlights on the FA Player. Even I couldn’t write anything about it other than what I would’ve read from the Liverpool FC match report.
Whereas the men’s team… well, it’s hard to not find information about the match on Saturday. In fact, if one were to go to the Liverpool FC news page, there is one post about the Women’s team’s success, and there are eight about the men’s match the day before, and even three about the U23’s match.
Yes, kids in the Academy and the “reserves” get more media coverage than the Women’s team.
This is not a new problem. This is not something even I’ve not written about before. It’s not even entirely Liverpool’s fault — although the fact that they didn’t even allow fans and subscribers to watch the match through their own LFCTV Go service is disappointing — and admittedly the club have gotten slightly better about including the Women’s team in their news pieces.
It is a cyclical problem, though. The problem starts with leagues not being able to make television deals to broadcast matches. That in turn means that clubs miss out on that money, and the media doesn’t cover the matches because that would mean they have to send journalists to cover it in person, probably for print or online. With no guarantee that those pieces will get any eyes, due to decreased exposure, media outlets are less likely to spend the money on sending those journalists out to do that work. So it lands on the clubs to do it for them, and when the attention clearly is set on the men’s teams, the women’s teams once against fall by the wayside.
That is the problem. It is not just the clubs lacking the investment in the teams, and the resources to make those teams better and feel well cared for, it is the whole sports industrial complex that disrespect these women. That is the answer to the argument that women’s sports does not make money — men’s sports make money because they are given the platform, they are given the attention that women’s sports still have to fight for.
That article with the 4% statistic? Came out in 2019. As of 2019, female athletes receive 4% of the media coverage.
It will take everyone, not just the fans and the clubs, but the media outlets as well, to recognize that female athletes, not even just women’s soccer players, deserve coverage. They deserve the attention that the men’s teams are just given, without question, rather than having to prove that they are worthy of investment and that attention.
Things are, admittedly getting better. NBCSports just announced they will be broadcasting FA WSL matches on the weekends in addition to Premier League matches. CBS had picked up the UEFA Women’s Champions League, and the NWSL Fall series after the NWSL Challenge cup just slightly less than the week's earlier match - between Manchester United and Leicester men's teams. And that’s just here in the United States, making those leagues more accessible to us overall, where even then our support for Women’s soccer is at a higher rate than in the UK — but of course, the United States didn’t have a 48 year ban on women’s football, either.
So that’s where we’re at. Liverpool fans missed out on an exciting 3-0 win for the Women’s team, a squad that had been starved for goals and wins last season. Denied seeing new signing Rachel Furness score for the Reds, Rinsola Babajide and her tricky footwork before her goal, or Mel Lawley’s effort find the back of the net. Celebrating Ashley Hodson's 101st appearance for the club. The excitement, that pride, the result of so much hard work that deserves just as much attention as the men’s team. Even as the big clubs in the FA WSL go on signing huge American superstars like Alex Morgan, Christen Press, and Tobin Heath — moves that will undoubtedly do more for their international image than anything else — Liverpool are simply struggling to be seen.
That is a problem that plagues all Championship teams, as the current system is to only stream two Championship league matches a week - the rest get the highlight treatment.
It’s a system that is largely disappointing, and needs to be redone, if Women’s soccer is ever meant to succeed. Because right now, it’s built to fail and to be blamed on the athletes for not being “exciting enough.”