Let’s be straight forward: While the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) announced the return of La Liga Santander, Spain’s men’s football top division, with great fanfare, it also decided that the top female football competition, La Liga Iberdola, was completely over.
The results were frozen as they were on March 14th, so the league title was given to FC Barcelona, based on the majority of points it had, in comparison to the rest of the teams in the league. However, seeing that one league has been suspended and the other one not has obviously raised questions on how women’s football is treated; as many have seen for years football as a “sport for men”.
Why is that so?
“If anyone proposed that a lobar sector in our country returned to work, and that only the male workforce could do it, it would be a scandal,” said Tania Tabanera, delegate of women’s football at the Spanish Football Players Association (AFE).
The truth is that very recently, La Liga Iberdrola was considered “a professional league”, especially after the though fight many players needed to do to achieve a historic collective agreement in Spain’s football, and in women’s football around the world.
The collective agreement of the footballers was signed last February, after months of stoppage in the negotiations and a significant trike by the players , who refused to play any match until all clubs and parties involved agreed to negotiate decent minimum conditions for them. The agreement was finally reached, but only after the MEDIAPRO group agreed to put three million euros on the table for the next two seasons. Yet, no one, except the players, has wanted to really talk about the matter after it was done, because the truth is that the agreement is still far away from what women’s football really deserves; or at least, that’s what it seems.
The women’s football agreement was signed with minimum wages of 16,000 euros per year, but on the condition that the players could be hired for 75% of the working day, that is, for thirty hours, in which case the salary would drop up to 12,000 euros. Something very different from the men’s agreement, where hiring is mandatory for 100% of the day (Forty hours). This not only influences wages, which are much higher for men, but on a whole series of lobar rights, such as sick leave, vacations…
It’s true that Spain’s Football Federation has recently considered proclaiming the women’s league as professional, and that basically means that it has become an important economic point; that there’s a significant number of employment contracts signed with football players, and that clubs from next season and onward will have a important income level linked to football rights.
For the women’s league to be considered professional is an important step, but not the only one necessary. Equality still a big issue that should be solved, as some of the laws that they have are tremendously obsolete, and they do not take women into account most of the time.
“If the crisis of the COVID-19 has shown something, it is how the sports legislation needs an urgent update that includes real needs for the sport and to establish real equality,” explained Tabanera, “Sports laws are very archaic and need to be amended.”
Undoubtedly, the suspension of women’s football in Spain is not necessary a bad decision, after the most important thing is the security of the players against this pandemic. However, if the federation and the clubs actually were supportive to the sport as much as they are with their male counterpart, probably, La Liga Iberdrola could have re-started just like the NWSL, the women’s Bundesliga, even the men’s La Liga. So, all these changes are not necessary only in women’s football, but in all professional sports disciplines.
“Breaking with stereotypes and beliefs is key to fighting for equality in sport. If it starts in women’s football, it will have a driving effect not only on other sports, but on a large part of society,” concluded Tabanera.