Christie Murray is a very good player. She is a set piece master who can control a ball with an ease I can only dream of attempting at my Sunday league. She deserves to represent her country for the very first time on football’s biggest stage, the World Cup. Yet today, we saw Scotland struggle against a strong England team with many ex-Reds on their roster, leading us to ask why Murray is the only Liverpool player out there. Why is she the only current Liverpool player representing her country?
Liverpool do have their share of talented players. Defender Yana Daniels is a mainstay for the Belgian national team, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk is our highest goal scorer and able to make something from anywhere on the pitch, Rinsola Babajide knows how to move through space with a foresight I can’t imagine. And there are other good players, especially English players, on the roster.
Murray isn’t the only one at Liverpool that deserves recognition, and yet she’s the only one actually at the World Cup. The reason for that, quite simply, is a lack of investment.
Much was said last season about the great exodus from Liverpool Women. With the majority of the club leaving, many to rival clubs, there were indications of troubles within the club, questions as to whether Liverpool were serious about doing what they could to elevate the women’s game and develop the players they had.
There’s a list of players in the World Cup this year, playing in France, that are considered forces to be reckoned with, players to watch for their level and skill of play. Christie Murray is one of them. A few others, like Lucy Bronze for England and Shanice van de Sanden for Netherlands, are considered some of the best and brightest their countries have to offer.
They both played for Liverpool and left to join teams doing bigger things. And that’s fine. They’re allowed to go to clubs that will better their careers as footballers and give them opportunities to win trophies. Therein, of course, lies the rub—and the question.
Why isn’t Liverpool that spot in the women’s game? Why hasn’t Liverpool been that spot since 2014? Why hasn’t Liverpool truly invested in the club to make it a spot that players want to stay at, just as they’ve done on the men’s side in recent years?
We can all point to the things that Liverpool Football Club have done recently to make sure that their best male players stay Red. Better and renewed contract terms, removing release clauses, a brand new training facility in Kirkby set to open next year.
And while there have been some improvements in those areas on the women’s side, like Sophie Bradley-Auckland, Jess Clarke, Niamh Charles, and Ashley Hodson getting new contracts to keep them in Liverpool, compared to our rivals (and I truly hate comparing Liverpool to our rivals), it has felt a case of too little too late.
Last summer, half of our squad left for a Manchester United side that hadn’t existed until last year and started in the second division, including Scouser Alex Greenwood (who has since been named their captain and is at the World Cup with England). With their resources, they were all but guaranteed a spot in the FA WSL 1 division following their first campaign and will compete against Liverpool next season, but it’s striking that a Scouser believed her best chance at furthering her career was to play for a United squad in the second division—and she was right.
It isn’t just be about salaries, either, although that is an area where Liverpool have lagged. Manchester City has a squad with a majority of full time players, including the likes of our former players Gemma Bonner and Caroline Weir, who left because they didn’t believe that Liverpool were serious about investing in the women’s game. In part because of all the upheaval and its impact on the on-pitch product, Liverpool saw their matchday revenue fall this season. The hard truth is that they simply don’t appear to be a side set up to succeed.
It’s a question we’ve asked many times when it comes to players, male and female—what makes a player want to stay? These are not gendered questions, either. A female athlete wants everything a male athlete wants—to play, to participate, and to lead their team to glory, and be appreciated for it. We know about the work done to make sure the Men’s team have been able to do those things.
Meanwhile, as other FA WSL clubs invest, Liverpool FC Women train at Tranmere Rovers’ facilities and play in their League One stadium, and there’s been no word from Liverpool CEO Peter Moore or anyone else regarding whether or not the Women will be given space at the club’s brand new, state-of-the-art training facility that the men’s teams will be part of.
This stands in stark contrast to clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal who treat their women’s clubs as part of the same umbrella—City have even been part of the larger Manchester City FC corporate structure since 1988, long before they became awash with oil money. While Liverpool’s Women’s team started out a separate club and only partnered with Liverpool FC in 1994, it’s beyond time for the club to do whatever they can to make this less of a poor partnership and more of a true adoption. It’s time to catch up with the rest of the FA WSL.
It’s not all bleak at Liverpool, though. Players like Christie Murray and Rinsola Babajide and Jess Clarke and Niamh Charles and Ashley Hodson and Courtney Sweetman-Kirk have the talent to benefit from investment. These are good players, players who if they were in better sides might even have been at this World Cup, and they will be able to show it with better resources—training, teammates, and, yes, salaries.
And these are all resources that a club like Liverpool, who boasted a record £106 million in profit in February and another £190m in reinvestment in the male squad, can surely provide if they have any intention of fielding a competitive women’s side against teams that are investing more of their resources.
The question now comes to why haven’t they? And why do our players, who are good and talented and deserving of their place on the world stage, have to suffer for it or choose to leave?