Following the Liverpool Women this summer has been one gut punch right after the other. Watching the team go through departure after departure as the season ended and longtime talismans of the club decided to move on, and then the slow rebuild as a new manager came in with new players has been compelling, if not entirely anxiety-inducing.
Just when it looked like we were in it for the long haul of another rebuild season, brand new manager Neil Redfearn resigns following two regular season matches, both with losing results. Redfearn came highly praised earlier in the summer, ahead of even the rebrand from Liverpool Ladies to Liverpool Women, and was the spearhead of the recruitment team needed for the brand new squad. He brought quite a few players from his previous job at Doncaster and the mood around the club was optimistic going into the new season.
So then, what the hell is actually happening over there?
If you follow women’s football at all, a lot of these big changes are pretty indicative of one thing. Despite the support within the actual changing rooms, the work done day in and out by hardworking women and staff, and fans that adore the sport and the team, there is always a point where it becomes clear that whoever is making the larger decisions doesn’t seem to care anymore.
Women’s football has always had an uphill battle to climb, like most women centered sports with more successful male counterparts. Even in 2018, with feminism seen as a dirty word at worst and a rally cry at best, with the Women’s World Cup one of the most watched sporting events in the world and local leagues growing in leaps and bounds, there are still plenty of arguments that it isn’t worth it.
I just hoped to never see the day that this battle would find my hard fighting Reds.
Neil Redfearn’s immediate resignation is indicative of one thing, and that’s a lack of support from the club at large. While Scott Rogers’ departure in June was largely expected after yet another dismal season under his tenure, the further exodus of players including basically all of Liverpool’s starting XI to rival teams like Manchester United was not. A back to back league title winning squad completely gutted.
Why would those players want to leave, unless they felt they were part of a club that truly cared about them?
I won’t pretend to be knowledgable of how contracts work in the FA WSL, or even women’s football at large. It’s pretty common knowledge that women don’t get paid the same as men, especially in football, and I have to assume they don’t get the same long term contracts either. Players like Siobhan Chamberlain, Alex Greenwood, Martha Harris, Amy Turner, and Kate Longhurst had their contracts expire this summer, with seemingly no effort made to extend them.
The silence from Liverpool FC about the Women’s side is deafening in these cases, as we’re left to speculate - just as I’m doing here. No further details have come out past the almost mechanical at this point statements about departures. “The club thanks them for their contribution and everyone wishes them all the best in the future.”
I can’t help but feel that if the club truly cared about supporting the women to become an elite side, as they were four years ago and as they should still be, there would be a little more attention paid to what goes on there. There has to be something more that they can do, as opposed to letting the Women flounder like this. A dismantling the likes of which we saw this summer is unheard of, and to have the man appointed as the new steward following it resign only two games into the season? Indicates that there are way bigger problems going in that backroom.
My only speculation is that Redfearn certainly felt that he wasn’t getting the support he needed, monetarily or otherwise, to truly lead this club to something worthwhile. Players like Gemma Bonner, Caroline Weir, and Sophie Ingle leaving for richer, bigger clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea, indicates that resources weren’t being invested in the women as they should be.
These players felt that they weren’t going to reach the same heights with Liverpool as they could with other clubs and that alone is a gut punch in itself.
No indication is great, and with how little Liverpool FC clearly thinks of their women’s side, it’s unlikely that we’ll get any clear answers out of anyone involved. We can only speculate, but every thread leads to the clear assumption that Peter Moore and whoever else in the Liverpool boardrooms do not care about building and keeping their women’s side an elite team that can challenge our rivals and keep up with a growing league.
It’s disappointing, at best, to come to this conclusion. When the women’s sport is growing more than ever before, with the men’s side playing as exciting football as ever and more fans participating in Liverpool week in and week out. Liverpool Women should be at the same level, period. There is no excuse for the Women’s side of the game to not be glowing representatives of their league, just as the men are now. The Reds should be at the forefront of the league, not wasting away into obscurity.
As of this weekend they sit at the bottom of the table in FA WSL 1, and having just gained their first points in the Continental Tyres Cup group against Durham.
Please. Support Liverpool Women, because the rest of the club clearly isn’t doing it.