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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Spain’s Women’s Team Calls for Comprehensive Restructuring of National Federation

The Royal Spanish Football Federation postponed the announcement of the squad for the Spanish women’s team’s first international football match since winning the World Cup.

Five minutes later, when Spain’s best players made public their demands for a complete overhaul of the federation, it was plain why.

These happenings coincided with the day when a restraining order was issued against Luis Rubiales, the former president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation. Mr. Rubiales, who appeared in court on sexual assault accusations on Friday, must keep 200 metres (more than 650 feet) away from the player as the investigation proceeds. The allegations stem from an incident in which he allegedly forcefully kissed star striker Jennifer Hermoso after the team won the World Cup in August.

The group had already announced its demands in August. They said that until their demands were honoured, they would not play for Spain. If the new requirements weren’t satisfied, it was unclear what would happen.

As the controversy surrounding the postgame kiss, which he claims was consensual but she claims was not, continues, the stakes have never been higher for Spain’s great players and the national soccer association. The kiss also sparked significant outrage and exposed long-standing gender bias and misogyny in the Spanish game.

Mr. Rubiales finally resigned on Sunday after weeks of pressure. The national team’s coach, Jorge Vilda, was let go last week. Teammates had complained about his domineering and misogynistic behaviour the year before. Former player and coach Montse Tomé has succeeded Mr. Vilda as the leader of Spain. She will make her first coaching appearance in Sweden the following week.

In the last several weeks, Ms. Hermoso has accused Mr. Rubiales of sexual assault and coercion, allegations of chauvinistic treatment of players by staff have surfaced, and players in the league have gone on strike due to poor pay.

The federation has made steps to appease its top players after those players publicly called for changes in management in a union statement released on August 25—just days after their World Cup triumph over England in a match played in Sydney.

Mr. Rubiales has remained stubborn after his resignation. According to a statement released by public prosecutors, he appeared in court on Friday and denied any misconduct.

Women’s league players have also made progress after the World Cup victory and have ended their strike. After days of “tough” negotiations, league chief Beatriz lvarez said Thursday morning that the players had agreed to increase the minimum salary from 16,000 to 21,000 euros (about $22,400).

Even with the increase, women will earn far less than men in Spain’s top level. The biggest Spanish football union, A.F.E., states that the bare minimum pay for male first-division players is 180,000 euros ($192,000).

According to the national squad, the federation still has some work to do, and it is not yet certain that enough has changed.

Apparently in reaction to the requests released earlier by the women’s squad, the football federation posted a statement on its website on Friday night, reiterating “its commitment to the world champions, for whom it feels enormous pride.”

The Spanish team’s chances of qualifying for the 2024 Olympics in Paris will be shattered if they don’t play in next week’s first match of the UEFA Nations League in Sweden.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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