Female soccer players in Spain are going on strike as the club season begins, a union representative said on Thursday, as a dispute over conduct by the head of the country’s soccer federation widened into a fight with their clubs over pay.
Early this month, the women’s players’ union announced that if working conditions did not improve considerably before the start of the season on Friday, the women would not play the matches set to begin this weekend.
The dispute is playing out amid broader upheaval in Spanish soccer, with the firing on Tuesday of the women’s national soccer coach, Jorge Vilda, whom players had criticized for his domineering management style, and the filing of a criminal complaint against Luis Rubiales, the head of the country’s soccer federation, by Jennifer Hermoso, a player on the national women’s team whom he forcibly kissed during a public celebration of the team’s World Cup final victory in Australia last month.
Representatives of the Spanish women’s soccer league and unions failed to reach an agreement during meetings in Madrid this week, with pay being the biggest point of contention.
The players asked for three years of progressive increases to bring their minimum wage up to 30,000 euros (about $32,000) a year, but the league proposed an increase, over three years, to €25,000. The current minimum for female players in the country is €16,000, compared with €180,000 for their male counterparts, according to Spain’s chief player union, A.F.E.
“The irresponsibility and lack of spirit and vision of the unions lead clubs and players to a strike that seriously damages the image of Spanish women’s football,” the women’s league said in a statement on Wednesday.
Spain’s female soccer players have been demanding higher wages and better conditions for years. They reached their first collective bargaining agreement in 2020 and have since been pushing for the country’s soccer league to improve conditions. The players are seeking higher wages, contracts that continue during maternity leave, and access to the same nutritionists and physical therapists as the male players.
The strike will affect games scheduled for Friday through Sunday and Sept. 15 to 17.
Discussions are due to continue next week between the league and unions in the hopes of reaching an agreement.