Women’s football in Spain has been plunged into further turmoil after players competing in the country’s top tier confirmed they will be on strike for the first two weeks of the new season.
Players competing in Liga F, which starts on Friday, have decided to strike after failing to reach an agreement with the league over a new minimum wage.
Several players’ unions, led by the Spanish Players’ Association (AFE), had been in talks with Liga F this week as they tried to find a resolution to negotiations that begun a year ago, when the league turned professional.
On Wednesday, however, Liga F announced that a deal had not been reached and that players are striking for the first two games of the campaign.
The players want the minimum salary in the league to rise from €16,000 (£13,745) to €25,000 (£21,475), increasing further to €30,000 (£25,772) for the 2024-25 season.
“The aim is to make progress in these negotiations, to achieve fair and dignified treatment for women footballers, (and) to address and reduce the existing pay gap,” the AFE said in a statement.
The players’ actions have prompted an angry reaction from Liga F, who insist they tried to find a compromise this week.
“The unions [negotiating on behalf of the players] showed absolutely no willingness to negotiate their salary demands,” Liga F said.
“Despite their incomprehensible attitude, Liga F, in response to the request of the unions themselves, took new steps towards reaching an agreement and [on Wednesday] presented a new alternative agreement for a single season with a minimum salary of €20,000 - an increase of 25 per cent on the current minimum salary - with the possibility of reaching €23,000 based on commercial benefits generated by the competition.
“The union response today was, once again, negative. The irresponsibility, lack of spirit and lack of vision of the unions has led players to a strike that is seriously damaging the image of Spanish women’s football at a time when all players should have understood the obvious potential for growth from which all parties could have benefited if the common interest of the project had prevailed over personal interests.
“The league, in order to avoid a strike, will not give in to pressure or accept proposals that would mean the economic collapse of the competition and, therefore, the failure of women’s professional football.”
The players’ strike is just the latest issue for women’s football in Spain, which should be riding high after the country won their first World Cup only last month.
The success of that has been overshadowed by Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales kissing forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the trophy presentation in Sydney after the final.
Hermoso says the kiss was not consensual and she has filed a legal complaint. Rubiales has not resigned but has been provisionally suspended by FIFA.
Spain’s head coach Jorge Vilda has also been sacked in the wake of the World Cup triumph, with Montse Tome installed as his replacement.
Vilda had already been under pressure before the tournament, with 15 players striking over conditions in the national team.