Spain’s top flight players stage on-field protest in row over women’s league
Players in Spain’s women’s top division began staging 30-second protests at the start of every game this weekend to highlight the delay of the beginning of their professional football league.
Players at Atletico Madrid, Real Sociedad and Barcelona were among the clubs playing on Saturday as they declined to play for 30 seconds at their start of their respective matches.
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The Spanish government declared in June that the women’s first division Primera Iberdrola is professional. However, five months have passed since and the process is blocked — 12 of the 16 clubs that make up the league put forward a proposal of statutes to Spain’s government in July yet no agreement has been reached.
The Association of Women’s Soccer Clubs (ACFF), created in 2015, said in a statement that it supports the players’ stance and have called for a solution to be reached now that those that voted in favour are willing to include proposals from the four clubs that had opposed the statutes in order to “unblock the process.”
The players, meanwhile, blame both the clubs for their failure to reach an understanding and the government for a lack of leadership and support.
“Once again it is them, the players, that have to show their faces again to remind everyone, and especially this Government, that the professionalisation of women’s football is the best way to work for equality in sport, especially when it occurs such an obvious situation of inequality between men and women,” the Players’ Union (AFE) said in a statement.
“This situation is posing a danger to the economic viability of some clubs so, as we have already done and will do again, our pulse will not shake when it comes to taking clear and decisive measures.”
Being considered a professional league allows the Primera Iberdrola to be independent, to obtain better resources and improve conditions, as its clubs will organise the league.
Some clubs have blamed Spain’s Football Federation (RFEF) for interfering and the situation was aggravated after Real Sociedad, Levante and Villarreal were docked three points each and fined €609 by the Spanish FA’s disciplinary committee on Thursday because their teams did not wear an RFEF logo on their jerseys during recent league games.
Players and the clubs have said the punishment underlines that the RFEF does not view women’s league as professional.
A statement from the three clubs said: “The RFEF still has not yet accepted the women’s soccer league being made professional by the Spanish government on June 15 and continues to behave as if this decision had not occurred and the competition was non-professional.
“These three clubs will wear the RFEF logo against their will from this day forward in order not to worsen the situation in consideration of the persecution to which they believe they are being subjected.
“The teams that are active in professional leagues are owners of the advertising rights of their kits and holders of the income that the promotion of the League generates through the logos on the shirts; The RFEF intends that the teams display their logo and that of their main sponsor for free and mandatory, which lacks legal support.”
On Saturday, players at Levante and Real Sociedad covered the RFEF badges on their jerseys before kick-off to protest against their recent punishment by the Spanish FA.