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Liverpool’s Training Ground Has Room for Everything—Except Their Women’s Team

@LFC

Back in 2017, Liverpool F.C. announced that it would be expanding its academy training ground in Kirkby so that the men’s first team would train alongside the reserves. The men’s first team, who at the time trained at Melwood, would be welcomed to the AXA Training Centre after a £50 million 9,200 square metre building was added which included ultramodern facilities: full-size gyms, a swimming pool, sports rehabilitation suites for those recovering from injuries, a tennis court, press conference facilities, in-house television studios, and more.

The original plan was to have the first team move to the new training ground before the start of the 2020/21 season, but the delays in construction due to the pandemic pushed back the move date to November.

The men’s first team had their first training session on November 17th. Based on videos, pictures, and quotes from head coach Jürgen Klopp, other members of the coaching staff, and the players, it has exceeded all their expectations, not only regarding the amenities but simply the sheer size of the training centre.

Jurgen Klopp on The AXA Training Centre: "Itu2019s very exciting. Yesterday [Wednesday] we had three power cuts in training and the managersu2019 meeting! You know how it is when something is new. But it is outstanding." #awlfc [mail] pic.twitter.com/tihtaWJLVZ

— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) November 20, 2020

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You’d think that with all its unique features, The AXA Training Centre, which is considered by many, one of the best training centers for a football club in the world, would have enough room for the women’s team. Unfortunately, the club deemed that the women’s team would stay put at their current training ground. The Campus, as it’s called, is shared with Tranmere Rovers’ men’s team, a team that now plays in League Two, the fourth tier of men’s football in England. Liverpool’s women’s team likewise plays their home matches at Prenton Park, the home ground of Tranmere’s men’s team. It seems that Tranmere Rovers are doing more for Liverpool’s women team than Liverpool themselves.

A lack of effort being put into its women’s team isn’t something new for Liverpool. The team remains significantly underfunded, and multiple players have left the club in recent years saying they hope to rediscover the joy of football.

Back in 2018, Siobhan Chamberlain left the club after the end of her contract. In her goodbye message, she stated “It’s important to me that I’m in an environment that challenges me every day and one where I can enjoy playing football. I also want to know I am part of a project that’s doing the most it can to develop the women’s game.”

Chamberlain was just the first of many players who felt a lack of support from the club. Once Casey Stoney, a former Liverpool player, became manager of Manchester United, she was able to attract Chamberlain, as well as six other Liverpool players to United: Alex Greenwood, Martha Harris, Naomi Hartley, Emily Ramsey, Lucy Roberts, and Amy Turner. For that many players to leave a club in the FAWSL for a club then in the FA Women’s Championship further confirmed that things were not going well for Liverpool.

Flash forward to 2020, and many players have left the club echoing the words of Chamberlain. Christie Murray stated that she wanted to work in an environment that challenges her and that she wanted to enjoy doing what she loved again.

Fran Kitching stated that she couldn’t wait to enjoy the game that she loved again and truly be happy.

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk wanted a new environment that challenged her as a person and a player, and a new club that would allow her to have a smile on her face.

Sweetman-Kirk expanded on this in an interview with Sky Sports, stating that “There has been a slow but definite decline in terms of maybe the investment that the club is getting [in comparison] from the men’s side,” and that she felt that “how you make people feel and what your place is within the club as a whole hasn’t been fantastic.”

Players are not the only ones speaking out. Neil Redfearn, who was hired in early June of 2018 to rebuild the team, quit in September of the same year, after just one game in charge. It’s also been heavily reported that Liverpool are understaffed when it comes to the women’s team. In 2019, only ten people were listed as full time workers, with the rest of the coaching staff and players only listed as part-time workers. Liverpool is one of the most successful clubs in England, and with success comes revenue and profit. Enough to pay everyone full-time salaries.

These problems have affected performances on the pitch; earlier this year, while the men’s team was celebrating their first Premier League title in 30 years, the women’s team, who won the league back to back in 2013 and 2014, was relegated to the FA Women’s Championship. They currently sit 4th in the table, and it is unlikely that they’ll be promoted back to the FAWSL for the 2021/2o22 season.

It further hurts to see Liverpool in this position when other clubs in both the FAWSL and the FA Women’s Championship are drastically upping their support of their women’s sides. Most of these teams either have their women’s teams train in the same facilities as the men’s team or they have an equally impressive training ground separate for them. These teams have put in the investment, and their progress has shown on the pitch.

Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City are now the ‘Big Three’ in the FAWSL, having alternated league titles since Liverpool last won in 2014. They have some of the best players and coaches in the world, all of whom are on full-time contracts. Everton and Manchester United have recently put more investment in their respective women’s teams as well, and this season, they’re giving the ‘Big Three’ their first real competition in years, with United currently sitting first in the table, and Everton in fourth, ahead of Manchester City.

LFC have maintained the ethos “Two teams, one club” when discussing the relationship between the men’s and women’s team, but their actions fail to show that is the case. It’s easy to preach the words “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” but in practice, that’s exactly what the Liverpool women have been forced to do.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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