Van Dijk – Hector fates highlight financial imbalance in football


Virgil van Dijk’s ACL injury is a massive blow for Liverpool – one that could cost them in their defense of the Premier League crown.
The Dutchman was hit hard by Jordan Pickford in the knees when attempting to attack a cross at the back post in the Merseyside derby.  The England keeper escaped punishment for his crunching tackle as Van Dijk was offside in the move.
Van Dijk immediately hit the ground, and although he walked off the pitch under his own steam, an MRI scan discovered that he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. The defender will likely miss the rest of the campaign, while his involvement in the European Championships next summer could be under threat.

Van Dijk has perhaps been Liverpool’s most important player over the last two years in their Champions League and Premier League triumphs. His loss has already affected their football betting odds to retain the top-flight crown, dropping further behind City in the minds of the sportsbooks – the Manchester side is 5/6, while Liverpool is now at 9/4.
It will be a long road ahead for Van Dijk and Liverpool to recover, but the 29-year-old will receive the best medical treatment available and will no doubt return to the pitch – perhaps even before the end of the season. Liverpool has medical insurance, while the player will also have cover for injury. In short there will be minimal financial burden for either party to bear.
However, it’s not always the case – especially in the ranks of women’s football. Although it’s the same sport – the women’s game lacks the billions of dollars that is pumped into the men’s arena. The impact is felt both on the field and off for it for some teams. Many clubs are operating at a financial loss even those in the Women’s Super League.
Simple issues such as travel and kits that are so mundane in the men’s game can be major obstacles. Sides such as Manchester City and Manchester United will not have those problems due to the strength of the men’s outfit.

However, a team in the case of Sunderland Ladies that hs produced England stars such as Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze, Jill Scott and Beth Mead faced the impact of Sunderland’s drop down the tiers to League One, seeing their funding cut by their parent club, which resulted in missing out on a place in the Women’s Super League.

Individual players feel the brunt. Whereas Van Dijk will have access to the top medical experts in the world for his ACL repair, Watford’s Renee Hector will be forced to have her operation on the NHS. The quality of care will no doubt be very similar, but the waiting time for surgery can take months compared to the Dutchman, who can have his at the earliest opportunity due to the resources available.

Due to the fact that Watford is not in the Women’s Super League – Hector does not sit under the branch of the Professional Footballers’ Association as she does not play football on a full-time basis. A private operation costs up to £10,000, which in the grand scheme of things for a Premier League club or even a Championship side is not a great deal of money.
However, for an individual that does not earn the riches from the sport that her male counterparts do – it is a significant sum of money. Without the operation, Hector’s career could well be in jeopardy. It’s unfair and once again highlights the imbalance in how resources are committed in football.

There have been crowdfunding efforts and reports suggest that Hector is in negotiations with Watford about treatment for the injury. Hopefully it will have a happy ending and she will grace the field again, although Hector will not be the last player in the women’s game to suffer this potentially devastating fate.

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