Liverpool Women have suffered from a “slow but definite decline” in investment from the club, says former Reds forward Courtney Sweetman-Kirk.
Two-time Women's Super League winners Liverpool were demoted to the Championship on Friday after the Football Association board reached a "majority decision" to decide final positions on a "basic points-per-game basis", with promotion and relegation determined on "sporting merit".
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Sweetman-Kirk, who left the club at the end of her two-year contract in May, believes the club hierarchy did not do enough to maintain emphasis on the women's team as the men's side close in on a first league title in 30 years.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, Sweetman-Kirk said: "There is a multitude of things that we can go through. I don't think it is something that is just apparent from this season. This goes back a long time.
"[It is] not that many years ago that the club was winning back-to-back WSL [titles].
"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.
"Maybe just the importance that is placed on the women's side, which I think is just as important. Money is obviously one thing and makes the world go around but [also] in terms of how you make people feel and what your place is within the club as a whole hasn't been fantastic."
Sweetman-Kirk, who was signed by former boss Neil Redfearn, says she is "disappointed" for members of the Liverpool squad but concedes it would have been "very unfair" to deny Championship leaders Aston Villa promotion.
Liverpool Women have shared League One Tranmere's Prenton Park pitch as their home since 2018, while they also train away from their male counterparts at Melwood.
Vicky Jepson's team won only one of their 14 matches in the WSL this season and are not set to be accommodated at the club's new multi-million facility in Kirkby, which is due to open later this summer.
"It is a question a lot of players have asked and wondered why? For me, in terms of the vision of the squad and where it is going, that was one of the contributing factors that I thought 'if that is not part of the club's plans then where is this club going?'" Sweetman-Kirk said.
"It is hard when you are training at a venue - no disrespect to Tranmere because they made us feel welcome when we went there - but [when] you look at your Chelseas, Arsenals and other squads' training facilities, it is not on par at all. You then wonder where the club is going if it doesn't want to include you in its plans going forward."
Sweetman-Kirk hopes that despite the side's relegation there will be an injection of financial backing to ensure the team does make an immediate return to the WSL.
"I hope now going forward that the club really do invest in the women's side," she added.
"There are some great people there and I hope they have got the backing that they need to take the club where it should be. Obviously, I know it is Liverpool in name and because the men are doing so well I think so many people automatically make comparisons.
"But the women's squad need to do what they need to do to be an entity in their own right and be successful in their own right. I hope that they are given the tools to do that."
'[Just] not being racist is not good enough'
Sweetman-Kirk, who has a black grandmother who lives in Spain, also offered a powerful message in support of the Black Lives Matter movement amid global demonstrations following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in the USA.
"As everyone was, I was taken emotionally with what has been going on," she said. "Unfortunately it is not a surprise. There is so much going on every day in this world. I think people look at the USA think 'oh well, it doesn't happen here'.
"This happens every day in England, in your city, in your town and it is maybe just not spoken about. It is very institutionalised and it is very covert.
"I say as a mixed-race human, but [also] just as a human, I think if you are watching this and you are accepting it it is not acceptable and you need to have a look at yourself. It is [about] educating people.
"Just because I am mixed race doesn't mean I have all the answers. I have not been through things that other people have been through, but I have made it my job to educate myself on things that are going on.
"I listen to my nanny in terms of the things that she has gone through as a black woman. Some of the things that she comes back and tells me [make me] feel sick.
"[Just] not being racist is not good enough anymore. It is not good enough to be complicit and not say anything."