Page 25 - The Twelfth Man - Issue 1
P. 25

News Issue 1
Why the women’s game
is still catching up
The women’s game is growing but there’s still a long way to go.
Record attendances, highest-ever viewing figures, growing media and broadcast coverage and games being played at men’s Premier League grounds - it’s been a big 12 months for women’s football.
But hidden behind the camera is the ongoing struggle of equality in women’s football and a yearning for more investment.
Liverpool Women, then named Liverpool Ladies, were back-to-back league champions in 2013 and 2014 and is a club rich with history.
They were one of the eight founding teams of the FA Women’s Super League, introduced in 2011, after joining forces with Liverpool FC in 1994.
Matt Beard’s time in charge during 2012 and 2015 was a significant period in Liverpool Women’s current history. As well as mopping up two league titles - ending a nine-year dominance by Arsenal - they reached the semi-finals of the FA WSL Cup and were competing in Europe.
The stature of the club was significant. International stars such as Lucy Bronze, Casey Stoney, Sophie Ingle, Fara Williams and Shanice van de Sanden all had spells at the club in the 2010s.
But it hasn’t taken long for the club to fall behind.
Growing investment at clubs such as Manchester City and Chelsea have seen their women’s teams become giants in England, as well as reaching new levels in Europe.
In 2011, City announced plans to build the new 5,000-capacity Academy Stadium as part of an 80-acre training facility and it became home of the women’s team
in 2014.
Since 2012, Man City Women have shared corporate links, resources, training facilities, marketing and social media
with the men’s team - even becoming
the first club to showcase both men’s
and women’s trophies at the same
time on a global trophy tour in 2019.
Chelsea have been leading figures in the women’s game in England - becoming one of the close-to-fully professional
clubs in 2015 and according to the Telegraph earlier this year, became the first football club in the world to tailor
their training programme around players’ menstrual cycles in an attempt to enhance performance and cut down on injuries. While there’s significant movement among some clubs in the WSL,
Liverpool appear to be falling behind.
There have been steps. A first WSL game was held at Anfield in November 2019, hosting 23,500 fans for the Merseyside derby. That came months after Vicky Jepson’s side went on a joint pre-season tour of the US with
the men’s team. They shared a full club photo in August and welcomed several new backroom staff in the summer.
But they are just scratching the
surface and resources have been limited. The Prenton Park pitch and Solar Campus training ground they have used in collaboration with Tranmere Rovers’ men’s team has fallen below standards expected of a top-tier professional league.
Budgets have been small in the transfer window. Only two players were brought in January despite the team having failed to pick up a victory in the league and facing a relegation battle in the coming months.
Results on the pitch have suffered, players have moved on to bigger and better things (internationals such as Siobhan Chamberlain, Caroline Weir, Gemma Bonner, Alex Greenwood and Sophie Ingle all left in 2018) and this is while the men’s team have enjoyed huge success.
Jurgen Klopp’s side, current European champions and Premier League leaders, will move to a new £50m training ground in Kirby, having already seen
an expansion to Anfield’s Main Stand, increasing its capacity to 54,000.
The training complex will, according to the Athletic, boast two gyms, a large indoor sports hall, a swimming pool, an extensive hydrotherapy complex, specialist sports rehabilitation and medical suites, as well as dining areas.
And yet there is no facilitation for the women’s team - only the men’s first team and its academy.
Liverpool are in danger of letting the women’s game pass them by and while discussions are no doubt taking place behind the scenes, they need to act fast.
Emma Sanders
  Chelsea have been leading figures
in the women’s game in England
- becoming one of the close-to- fully professional clubs in 2015.”
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