What's in a name?

Words by Polly March 

Liverpool Ladies have been the latest women’s football team to undergo a rebranding, starting with the announcement of their new name: Liverpool FC Women.

Following in the spiked footsteps of Arsenal, Chelsea, and West Ham, this renaming signifies a “new era for women’s football”, as echoed by manager Neil Redfern. Announcing this exciting new chapter through promotional images of their latest partnership with Avon, acting as the first female team to attract an independent shirt sponsor, Redfern added; "The renaming of [the] refreshed squad is just one aspect we’re looking at and fits perfectly with the overall move towards a more modern and inclusive game."

But what does this mean for the sport, and more specifically, women in general? After all, what is in a name…?

Although referring to women as ‘ladies’ is hardly offensive, it no longer seems to fit in the world of sport. The word itself suggests fragility and harks back to a dated era in which women would rarely be spotted in the stands, let alone muddying themselves on the pitch. This is a vital step in neutralizing the sport as, understandably the teams need to be identified as separate in one sense or another, the rebranding simplifies the outdated, and frankly unnecessary, comparison between men and women’s team sports.

It also feels entirely appropriate that Liverpool FC Women has made this change now, following on from a string of successes. As founding members of the FA Women’s Super League in 2011 (note, Women’s, not Ladies), by 2013 they were fully integrated with Liverpool Football club and went on to win the championship for the first time. They successfully defended their title when they were crowned champions again the following year, as they managed to win on goal difference thanks to a victory on the final day of the season.

Although these giants in sport make it look effortless, this was no mean feat. The FA Women’s Super League club was originally known as Newton Ladies when they formed in 1989 and waited until 1995 to even be linked with Liverpool FC. At the turn of this decade, they have lead the way in women’s football, and they show no signs of slowing down now. Liverpool FC CEO Peter Moore added to this sentiment, proudly stating; “We are in a prime position to be at the forefront of these changes, so it was an obvious choice to rename the squad before the new season starts…I have witnessed women’s football go from strength to strength over the last few years and I’m excited about this new stage in the game.”

Although I defend the notion that having the gender in the name can be fiercely empowering and a defiant stamp on an industry that still bears the ethos ‘men first, women second’, it feels like the right time to add to the rebranding of the women’s game that has since amended its calendar from an annual format to a September to May season. Simple changes like this demonstrate an effortless but significant redirection in levelling the playing field, one penalty shootout at a time.