Spanish women’s league players go on strike for first two games of season over pay dispute

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Players competing in the top-tier of women’s football in Spain will go on strike for the opening two weeks of the new season after a pay dispute, players’ union FUTPRO announced on Thursday.

The dispute between the five unions representing the players – including many of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad – and Liga F primarily came about because of a disagreement in the minimum salary for players and the wage gap which exists.

“We consider the final economic proposal of Liga F to be unacceptable and the five unions keep maintaining that a firm proposal in regards to minimum salary has to be applied so that the footballers of our country have wages at the level of their talent,” a statement from FUTPRO read.

“The position of the league during the negotiations surprises and saddens us, which at all times has been immovable in regards to meeting the proposal made by the unions.”

FUTPRO said the players were asking for a minimum salary of €23,000 (about $24,600) be introduced for the upcoming season, rising to €25,000 (about $26,750) for next season.

However, it said that the league “kept itself practically immovable,” proposing a salary of €20,000 ($21,400) and, in the words of the unions, “making the negotiations impossible.”

The quintet of unions originally called for a strike during the first two matchdays last Friday, but following the failure of the last round of negotiations – including a last-minute meeting to try to avoid the labor stoppage – the unions are proceeding with strike action.

“It’s important to remember that the current minimum salary since 2019 is 16,000 euros ($17,100), an amount which by only applying the base rate rise of CPI (consumer price index) would rise to 18,554 euros ($19,900),” FUTPRO said.

“It’s a key moment to defend the working rights of our footballers and to have the commitment that the institutions which comprise the women’s football industry bet on the development and well-being of its protagonists.”

‘Incomprehensible attitude’

In a statement, Liga F emphasized its “firm conviction” of coming to an agreeable deal for both sides, including what it says, at one point, making an offer which would increase the minimum wage to €25,000 ($26,800) over three seasons, eliminating wage bias and providing other forms of care for players.

“The response by the unions was sharp, demonstrating an absolute immovability in its economic requests (25,000 euros for the current season and 30,000 euros for the next), without showing a willingness to negotiate their salary demands, as well as not valuing the benefits of family reconciliation and training offered,” Liga F said.

Despite what it said was an “incomprehensible attitude” from the unions, Liga F said it was willing to raise current wages by 25% to 20,000 euros, as well as tabling various other measures, such as “family reconciliation, maternity, breastfeeding and training benefits.”

In their statement, the unions deny that any measures regarding anything but wages were discussed in the final round of talks which were designed to avoid the strike.

The new Liga F season was scheduled to kick off this weekend, with the first game meant to be held on Friday night with Sevilla hosting UD Granadilla Tenerife.

A climate of change

The strike comes amid an increased focus on women’s soccer in Spain following the success of the Women’s World Cup and the fallout of the unwanted kiss from Luis Rubiales, the beleaguered president of the country’s soccer federation, to La Roja star Jennifer Hermoso.

On Wednesday, Hermoso filed an official complaint with prosecutors against Rubiales. Spanish prosecutors had opened an investigation into Rubiales on August 28, saying they would contact her within two weeks to “inform her of her rights as a victim of an alleged crime of sexual aggression.”

Hermoso’s legal complaint is the next step required for the Spanish justice system to proceed with a case against Rubiales, who has refused to quit as president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).

Rubiales has apologized and described the kiss after the Spanish national team’s victory at the World Cup final on August 20 as “mutual” – a claim Hermoso denied, saying she was not respected. FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, suspended Rubiales for 90 days while disciplinary proceedings are underway.

Last week, the Spanish Court of Arbitration in Sport (TAD) agreed to open a case against Rubiales but rejected the government’s argument that his offenses were “very serious,” preventing his immediate suspension and forcing ministers to ask the tribunal to do it instead.

The unwanted kiss has prompted a major shake-up in Spanish soccer, with the government pushing for Rubiales to resign and RFEF removing Jorge Vilda from his role as coach of the women’s national team. He was replaced by Montse Tomé, the first woman in Spanish national team history to hold the position.

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