One of the more baffling aspects of the European football equivalent of a failed ‘coup d’état’ was it’s not-so-subtle single sentence detailing the intention to replicate a similar format in women’s football.
“As soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition, a corresponding women’s league will also be launched, helping to advance and develop the women’s game,” read the only part of the statement referring to female football.
And, of course, it came near the end of this controversial announcement. It felt like nothing more than a token gesture to supposedly assure fans of the women’s game that they are being thought about in all of this upheaval.
All it did was highlight once again how the women’s game is viewed as an after thought, even amid seismic change on the continent.
After the vociferous public outcry from various sectors, the owners of the so-called ‘big six’ caved, coming back grovelling to fans with their tails firmly between their legs.
Liverpool released an apology video from John W. Henry on Wednesday morning, where he put on a performance worthy of an Oscar in trying to convey any real remorse for being the main driver behind launching this abhorrent project.
That should be the end of the matter then right? Everything can be swept under the carpet and we can move forward as a collective, spurring Liverpool on to finish the season strongly as Henry has held himself accountable?
Well this time, to put it quite simply, no.
The collective outrage will not simmer anytime soon and the attempt of these owners to drag the women’s game into the mud, although it will not be remembered by many given the events of the recent days, will certainly not be forgotten by the core group of fans who really care about their women’s sides.
Now if these owners were serious about “advancing” and “developing” the women’s game many of the clubs involved may well want to start by getting their houses in order, and Liverpool are a prime example.
WSL champions in 2013 and 2014, Liverpool are languishing in the Championship, the second tier of women’s football as a result of years of mistreatment and negligence.
While Jürgen Klopp has ushered in a historic era at Anfield, leading Liverpool’s men side to Champions League and Premier League glory during FSG’s reign, the women’s side have regressed during the same period and have essentially been kicked to the curb and left to fend for themselves.
Amber Whiteley is in charge on an interim basis after Vicky Jepson was relieved of her duties rather abruptly in January. All candidates for taking the job permanently have now been interviewed, but still the fans and players are none the wiser as to who the new manager will be and when they will be appointed.Embed from Getty Images
One can’t help but ponder that if Klopp was to be sacked tomorrow, would FSG wait a further three months to even have interviewed all potential candidates? I certainly wouldn’t think that would be the case.
There is an argument that they are taking the time to look for the right appointment who will spearhead a new era at Liverpool Women, but even if this is the case it is well overdue and should have been ushered in a lot sooner.
The owners missed a huge chance to show their commitment to rebuilding Liverpool Women, by not moving them along with the men’s team to the state of the art AXA Training Centre in Kirkby. There is still no hint they will make the transition any time soon.
Liverpool Women currently share all their facilities with League Two side Tranmere Rovers, training at Solar Campus and playing at Prenton Park.
The pitch there is often is awful condition, given there is little turnover time to prepare it for another game after Rovers have played on it on the Saturday.Embed from Getty Images
That is why the affiliation with the men’s team in my eyes like those of many fans of Liverpool Women, stops at the name Liverpool. They are run as if they were two entirely different clubs, instead of two strands of the same club.
It is unfathomable to think men’s games wouldn’t be available to watch in some shape or form. If a Liverpool fan can’t see their team live, highlights will be uploaded on Sky Sports’ YouTube and the club’s YouTube, alongside all post-match reaction.
They will never be starved of match action and be forced to rely solely upon Twitter updates from the club throughout the game and four minute highlights uploaded almost a day after the game, and not by the club.
Yet this is the reality of what it’s like supporting Liverpool Women. On the odd occasion games are shown on the club’s YouTube channel, there are no replays and one camera angle, with no post match press conference.
This is simply atrocious for one of the biggest clubs in the world and lays bare the lack of investment and complete disregard for the women’s team from the people at the top.
Bring all these factors together and did FSG ever seriously think that Liverpool Women could compete in a European Super League with the likes of established powers such as Chelsea and Man City who are miles ahead in terms of infrastructure, investment and coverage of their women’s sides?
Probably not as the Women’s European Super League was just an add on at the end and, if it eventually did come to fruition, it seems it would have just been worked out off the cuff.
It is puzzling given that we now know these owners are driven purely by making money that they haven’t invested heavily in Liverpool Women, who form part of the women’s game which continues to grow year upon year.
The landmark sponsorship deal with Barclays and the recent historic broadcast deal with Sky Sports and the BBC convey the appetite for the women’s game is growing, but is seemingly not enough to convince FSG to stump up the cash needed to make this side as good as it can be.Embed from Getty Images
Even the detestable Glazers at Manchester United have committed to the women’s game. Albeit Manchester United Women were only formed in 2018, but at least money has been poured into the women’s side to make them competitive near the top half of the table with world-class players at their disposal.
Among much of the harm that FSG have caused the club during their tenure, the European Super League is undoubtedly the biggest slight.
Purely from a Liverpool Women perspective, as the impacts upon the men’s team have been well documented, it has only further reinforced that the sentiments of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” have not been translated to the women’s team.
It is embarrassing in this day and age for Liverpool Women to be in the Championship. The least Henry and FSG owe to the incredibly loyal fan base following the female side – despite all the challenges which have been imposed – is to at least make them competitive again in the top flight.
This will only come when the owners commit to sustained investment. If that is forthcoming one day if a similar proposal came to light for the women’s game, no matter how loathsome it would be, Liverpool Women would at least be in the discussion of their own accord, on sporting merit and not as a by product of the success of their male counterparts.
For now, however, that remains a huge “if” on both accounts, but it would be a step in the right direction if FSG were serious about rebuilding burnt bridges.
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