Opinion: Liverpool Women in danger of more than just relegation

Image source: BBC Sport

As Liverpool FC Women face potential relegation, they are in danger of losing more senior players.

Goalkeeper Fran Kitching is the fourth departure from the club in less than two weeks.

She follows Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, Anke Preuss and Christie Murray in choosing not to renew their contracts. 

The exit of so many players in quick succession brings the mass exodus of 2018 to mind. That summer saw Beth England, Alex Greenwood, Caroline Weir, Casey Stoney and 10 other players leave Liverpool. 

So with the club in danger of being relegated after a disastrous 2019/20 season, it begs the question — who is next?

The roster is already thin. Now they are without a senior goalkeeper and have just the one remaining striker in Kirsty Linnett. 

Echoes from the past

What is very interesting about all of these players leaving is the manner in which they announced their decisions.

Three out of the four players said they just wanted to enjoy football again. 

Is the situation in Merseyside that bad? Has life in red become so hostile that players are losing their passion for the game?

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Sweetman-Kirk was the first player to refuse a new contract with Liverpool. She said she needed a new environment that challenged her as a player via her personal Twitter account.

“At the start of the year I decided to leave Liverpool Women FC, at the expiration of my contract at the start of May and after two seasons with the club,” she wrote.

“Can’t wait to have a ball at my feet, smile on my face and be excited to train again.”

Just a few days ago Murray echoed that sentiment. She thanked fans for their support but added she needed a change from the club. 

“I’m looking forward to the next step in my career and the opportunity to be in an environment that challenges me, both as a person and as a footballer, and most importantly, to be able to enjoy what I love again.”

Curiously, when Kitching explained her decision to leave she cited similar reasons.

“After two years at LFCW I will not be returning next season,” she said. “At what has been the most challenging season for me to date for so many reasons, I can’t wait to be enjoying the game I love again.”

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The alarming thing about these tweets is the similarity to former goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain’s comments in 2018.

She said she wanted to know she was part of a project that was doing the most it could to develop women’s football, according to The Athletic.

If so many players are going public about why they left Liverpool, and it ends up being the same reason, that is a huge problem. 

It means Liverpool Women are in danger of more than just relegation.

Who would want to play there now? 

Two teams, one club — a ruse?

The Athletic published an article at the end of April about how Liverpool treated the women’s team as second class citizens.

It explained how they were forced to take a bus from Boston to New York during last year’s preseason — an eight-hour, 200-plus mile journey. 

The men? They flew by private jet.

There was also a period of several months where they did not have their own strength and conditioning coach. 

A press release ahead of the US tour claimed the club ‘hoped it will continue to raise the profile of the women’s game’.

According to the club’s financial posting for the fiscal year ending in May 2019, the total expenses of the club totalled £1.391m.

For context, Pedro Chirivella, a player who has made one senior league appearance for Liverpool in his career, earns £30,000 a week. That’s £1.56m a year.

The 23-year-old Spaniard is supposedly worth more to the club that the entire infrastructure of the women’s team.

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How are players supposed to view Liverpool Women as an attractive club to play for if there are so many red flags?

Even though the WSL season ended prematurely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Liverpool only managed a single win out of 14 games. 

The Reds are in need of serious help. They are in need of serious investment. More importantly, they are in need of serious attention from the club itself. 

It’s a far cry from the ‘two teams, one club” commitment Liverpool CEO Peter Moore promised.

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