What does it take to build a community rooted in equity? One in which everyone can expect to be met with fairness and dignity?
Last week, football fans in the United States would have been in a rather unique place from which to consider these concepts. First, the nation’s annual celebration of its independence on the Fourth of July would necessarily force people to put themselves into the same space that the Founders were when they tangled with similar questions. Questions about justice and equality.
The United States Women’s National Team was also slated to face off against Holland in the Final of the World Cup. The US would go on to win the match to secure their fourth World Cup trophy. And in the ensuing celebration that day, as well as at the culmination of the victory parade when the conquerors of the world returned stateside, chants of “equal pay” rang out loud.
That’s because, famously, the American women - much like their contemporaries in other nations - aren’t paid on the same footing as the men for representing their nation. And while many stories circulated about the state of the women’s game during the World Cup, this particular victory seemed to place the issue of equal access and opportunity front and center. What does it mean when one of the historically great teams of all time still has to fight tooth and nail for some measure of parity?
So, here we are at this moment in which politics and sports are inextricably linked despite the many protestations, I’m sure, of specific segments of the sports fandom who might like to loudly proclaim that they should never be.
This, though, is not a place where we are much concerned with coverage of the United States national teams, mens or womens, and so now we pivot and talk about how the push for equal pay - or at least equal opportunity - is not just a discussion for the World Cup and in relation to national teams. It’s an issue that crosses into the professional ranks of the sport, where many of the nations represented in the World Cup don’t have professional women’s leagues.
It extends beyond football, when you look at the fight for equal time, representation, and pay for pro women’s leagues in other sports across the globe. Women’s sports are often regarded as second-class professions at best and, at worst, seen as charity cases meant to be dismissed.
That the issue made plain during the course of the World Cup - where high quality football was on offer match-to-match - is that problem isn’t so much that people don’t care about the sport or that it is somehow less interesting or thrilling than the men’s game. It’s that, quite simply, people refuse to provide the type of access or opportunity or investment in order to allow the sport to thrive.
Which takes us to the Liverpool centric part in all of this.
Bill Shankly is famously quoted as saying, to paraphrase, that the game of football is like playing a piano: you need 9 people to move it and 2 people who can actually play it. The quote is a terrific one because it shows that while skill is absolutely necessary, no one on the field is useless to the overall mission of the team. Put differently, we cannot achieve anything worthwhile without each other.
And this is the point in all of this, my friends. We’ve had many articles in this space, written by people far better placed than I to speak on the issues facing LFC Women and the hypocrisy in people pushing against the calls for equality.
And what I’m doing now is, hopefully, to point at that final piece. The one that Shankly’s great quote points to: solidarity. Another way to think about it is what we owe to each other as a community. And if we truly believe that LFC Women is part of the LFC family, then we cannot abide the poor conditions facing LFC Women. We also cannot ignore that the lot of the blame falls on FSG for not investing into the women’s side while rival English clubs do more.
The reason we do this is because if we believe in the ethos of equality and, indeed, in the ethos of the club itself as informed by that “it takes all of us” spirit obviously at the heart of the Shankly quote, then we must believe that justice merits the women being equal partners in our community. As fans, then, we owe them the same supporters we would if we were to hear of similar conditions being imposed upon the men’s side of the system.
We owe them this because that’s what we’d do if we treated the women’s team and the men’s team as one single unit. As we should, because they both bear the name of Liverpool.
It shouldn’t surprise, I suppose, that my mind is obsessed with solidarity building. As a community organizer, I kind of have to be. But even if I wasn’t, I’m convinced that our great leaps forward in search for justice, for equity, are always made on the backs of collective effort.
You see, the building of a just world, much like playing Shankly’s piano or the game of football, requires the effort of many people. Life is, after all, a communal sport.
And if the take away after that masterful World Cup run by the USWNT is that this sport is thrilling and the athletes of elite quality, then we owe it to the high quality athletes that we know must exist in the professional leagues the world over and especially at Liverpool FC Women to ensure that the obstacles standing in the way of their success be broken down.
If you’re local, try and go to a match. If you’re not, maybe stream one or watch the replay on LFCTV Go. Keep an eye on the table. As a specific request, TLO’s own Jordan J. Keeble has a novel approach: purchase a season ticket even if you can’t attend. Why? It directly impacts the bottom-line for the club, communicates the interest to the people in charge, and, at a mere £35, is an incredibly low-cost way to show your support to this club.
In other words, be a supporter of a football club. Be a supporter of Liverpool FC Women.
And, of course, hold FSG accountable for the way they treat this team. When the footballers of Liverpool Women indicate that they are walking uphill in terms of support from the front office, believe them. And then point your ire at FSG. Stand with the amazing athletes that are only asking for fair wages for good work. Show them that they truly do not walk alone.