In November 2014, Liverpool Ladies had recently secured their second consecutive Women’s Super League title. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s men’s team had made a poor start to their Premier League season, in which they would end up finishing sixth.
Fast forward five years and the men’s side are defending European champions and sit eight points clear at the top of the Premier League. The now-rebranded Liverpool FC Women, however, are bottom of the WSL having accrued just one point all season.
I feel that the current disparity between Liverpool’s two sides can be attributed to a lack of interest from the club’s ownership in the women’s game.
Things began to truly unravel for Liverpool Women in the summer of 2018 when a mass exodus took place at the club after a disappointing season. 12 first-team players departed, including captain Gemma Bonner and stars such as Caroline Weir, Alex Greenwood and top scorer Bethany England.
Further upheaval occurred as manager Scott Rogers left and was replaced by Neil Redfearn, who lasted just two competitive games in charge before resigning. There were reports of tension between him and the club’s hierarchy over the way the women’s team was being run, and the poor recruitment to replace those who left in the summer.
This was not the first time that accusatory fingers were pointed at Liverpool’s ownership for a lacklustre approach to their women’s project. Siobhan Chamberlain, who was one of the many to leave in 2018, stated her desire to play for a side challenging for trophies. She added: “I also want to know that I am part of a project that is doing the most it can to develop the women’s game.”
There have been some positive moves by the club recently, such as the women’s Merseyside Derby being played at Anfield for the first time in front of 23,500 fans. Nevertheless, Vicky Jepson, who replaced Redfearn, is undoubtedly in for a relegation scrap this season.
Something that is particularly concerning is the fact that only one Liverpool player has been called up to the England squad in the last year. It is clear their team is far off the level needed to challenge the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal again.
It appears that, while most of the top clubs are tapping into the growth in popularity of the women’s game, Liverpool’s ownership has been reluctant to place any significant investment in the side as of yet.
The men’s team may be flying high, partly due to a successful analytics-based approach to recruitment, but their female counterparts have not been afforded the same support and may be plying their trade in the Championship next year as a result.