Liverpool Women's Relegation Could Be the Wake-Up Call They Need

Niamh Fahey
Liverpool Women had their WSL relegation confirmed on Friday | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The WSL season was ended on 25 May as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, with Chelsea awarded the title and Liverpool's relegation confirmed on Friday.

League standings were determined by points per game, leaving the Reds relegated despite being just a point from safety and having fulfilled only 64% of their fixtures.

Liverpool have the right to feel aggrieved. With eight games still to play, they were more than capable of hauling themselves out of trouble. Their relegation is unjust. But it is not undeserved.

The relegation is a result of neglect, disinterest and underfunding. But it could be the wake up call the club needs.

Had the season been ended but relegation not enforced, it would remarkably have been the third time that Liverpool had finished bottom of the WSL without paying the price of demotion.

During the Super League's opening two seasons (before relegation was introduced) the Reds recorded rock bottom finishes on both occasions, mustering just a pair of wins over the course of two campaigns.

The club then enjoyed a rapid change of fortunes, as their investment in the women's side was met with instant success.

Liverpool became the first WSL side to go fully professional in 2013, raiding rivals Everton for a selection of the country's finest players and bringing in a handful of recruits from overseas - a real novelty for the league at the time. The professionalism and ambition the club showed immediately garnered deserved accolades, as Liverpool won successive WSL titles. In doing so, they became the first side to beat Arsenal to the league title in a decade.

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Liverpool Women parade their 2014 WSL title around Anfield | PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

However, just a month after the Reds celebrated their 2014 triumph, PFA Player of the Year Lucy Bronze secured a move away from Liverpool to Manchester City.

The league champions losing their talisman to a City side with just one season of top flight football under their belt should have sent alarm bells ringing, particularly when Bronze cited her reasons for moving to Manchester [via mancity.com]: "The way City are growing, the ambitions they have and what they want to do with the team is unbelievable.

"In the women's game, it's unheard of really so it was hard to turn them down."

Moving to Man City on the basis of 'ambition' - something that had set Liverpool apart - suggested that while the professionalism at City had been dialled up, at Liverpool the very opposite was happening.

Bronze's 2014 statement is merely reading between the lines, but six years on from her departure, but little inference is required for the social activity of players who have left the club at the end of the 2020 campaign. They have not minced their words.

Scotland international Christie Murray was one of a number of players to hint at a lack of challenge and enjoyment, tweeting she could not wait 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."

Meanwhile, forward Rinsola Babajide said: "All I’m asking for is to stay consistent with your decisions across the board for both the women’s and men’s side."

This is where the overarching issue lies. Liverpool women have not been afforded the same opportunities and respect as their male counterparts.

No one is demanding the women's side be paid the same. No one is demanding they play at Anfield every week.

Rinsola Babajide, Maddy Cusack
Liverpool suffered defeats to Sheffield United and Aston Villa of the division below during the 2019/20 season | Lewis Storey/Getty Images

However, Liverpool women have not even been included in the club's new £50m training complex. They train and play at Tranmere. If you play for Liverpool Women, you would not feel like you are actually playing for Liverpool.

A rather responsibility-dodging statement released on the official club website following their relegation read: "We enjoyed several notable firsts as a women’s team this season – including a first WSL game at Anfield – and we are committed to continuing to grow the women’s game in this country with our fellow teams."

Another first the club eventually enjoyed as a women's team this season was three points - which they did not manage until 19 January.

Their maiden victory over Bristol would be the Reds' only win of a miserable campaign. Scoring just eight goals all season, the issue was so clearly their inability to put the ball in the back of the net, but the club did not once invest to rectify their problems and prevent the ship from sinking.

Liverpool announced pre-tax profits of £42m - this is not a club short of a few quid.

Prior to Liverpool, Yeovil, Doncaster and Bristol City were the three most recent sides to suffer the drop from the WSL. These are clubs not even comparable to the might, stature and financial power of Liverpool FC.

This is what is hugely frustrating about Liverpool's relegation. They are such an iconic football club with such potential for a successful women's team. Manchester United's ability to recruit players during their first season in existence demonstrates the pull and allure that the badge of a footballing giant has.

Melissa Lawley, Esme Morgan
Liverpool hosting Everton at Anfield demonstrated the potential of the women's team | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Liverpool would undoubtably have a similar attraction for so many players, given they are the Premier League champions elect and boast one of the proudest histories in European football. Should they choose to take the women's game seriously, there would be no shortage of talent desperate to pull on a Liverpool shirt.

However, over the past six years they have watched as player after player, manager after manager has departed, leaving the team to stagnate and eventually rot.

This relegation could finally be the wake up call Liverpool need to stop the rot and start treating their women's team as professional athletes. Because if they do, the club's potential knows no bounds.