Sunday, March 8th is International Women’s Day — a holiday that doesn’t mean a whole lot in retrospect except an opportunity for brands to announce how much they love and support the women they employ and profit off of. Liverpool Football Club is no exception to this, as they released a “short film” on Friday ahead of the holiday about how important four generations of female fans are to the club, including legend Margaret Aspinall. Which, if you didn’t see it on Friday, might not have been able to find as it was buried in an article about the club hosting “inspirational Women” at Anfield on Saturday.
The club were simply waiting, apparently, to roll out their actual contribution to the conversation - a video paired with their shirt sponsor Standard Chartered’s #StandRed initiative, with Women’s team vice-captain Niamh Fahey, Virgil Van Dijk (in a ten second cameo), and two girls from the academy, talking about how the soaring popularity of women’s football and what it means to have a role model that’s a female player.
Women’s football has grown in profile and popularity, with more female role models for young girls to look up to and emulate.@Niamh_Fahey1, @VirgilvDijk and the next generation discuss their own personal journey to becoming footballers.#EachforEqual #EveryMoment #StandRed pic.twitter.com/CE2Elw4Uxy— Liverpool FC Women (@LiverpoolFCW) March 8, 2020
The two and a quarter minutes video, on the surface and for someone who doesn’t know or care anything about the club’s treatment of the Women’s team, is great. Throw in a Men’s superstar, get a couple girls talking about what playing football means to them, get one of the senior members of the Women’s squad. Brilliant, ticks all the boxes, job well done boys.
Knowing, though, that the Women’s team are still left to play with League One resources, even after crosstown rivals Everton literally announced they are set to benefit from increased investment (and that’s just Everton), that they have two matches to make up because they’ve been playing on a League One pitch that hasn’t been replaced in 25 years with a poor drainage system. That they sit in relegation because of lack of investment into resources that their rivals have. We can’t attract top players because we don’t have the same resources that other teams do. It’s the reason why noted Liverpool fan Carli Lloyd chose to play for Manchester City on loan instead, way back in 2017, ahead of the great Exodus.
Liverpool’s efforts all sound a bit hollow.
This is probably a broken record by now. Being a fan of something means calling it out when it’s being problematic and Liverpool’s treatment of their women’s team, as just a promotional tool, has been problematic for some time. And every time they release a video or an article or a photo of a renovated dressing room, looking for praise at how they treat their Women’s team, it is our obligation to call them out on the nature of it.
Liverpool used to pride itself on having the first fully professional team in the Women’s Super League. Now, even their captain Sophie Bradley-Auckland splits her time between the team, her job as a manager in a rest home, and being a mother. Which shouldn’t be the case, at all, if the clubs were even attempting to be equal. Jordan Henderson doesn’t have to worry about anything other than football, because he’s paid exorbitantly for it.
Everything about this - from the video, the tweet on the Women’s account only being retweeted onto the Men’s account, the hashtag #EachForEqual, Virgil Van Dijk not saying anything about Women’s football specifically except “football is for everyone” - is a massive slap in the face of every Women’s team fan that knows exactly what’s going on.
They maybe would’ve been better off not releasing anything at all.