In her recent piece, Raquel Barbadillo mentioned that our season ended prematurely when RFEF put the professional leagues on hiatus and brought an end to the amateur leagues around Spain. Had the hiatus happened today, we would have seen a different result because today RFEF decided to classify both first and second divisions of the women’s league as professional leagues. In addition to making Iberdrola a professional league, RFEF also changed the classification of first and second division men’s futsal and first division women’s futsal from amateur to professional. This is a big deal as with professionalization comes several of the requirements the women were striking over, such as minimum wage.
This all got me thinking — what better time than now to go over the history of Liga Iberdrola and its teams? We all know that the majority of the men’s teams have a women’s counterpart, and that Real Madrid was one of the last ones to fall in line with this pattern. (Or at least will be one of the last ones when they bring CD Tacon into the fold on July 1st.) But what about the league itself? When did it first start? Why did it first start?
Liga Iberdrola currently boasts a total of 16 with two more being promoted for the 2020/2021 season and none being relegated. (Espanyol and Valencia breathe a sigh of relief.) When Iberdrola first started in 1988, there were a total of nine teams, and it was called Liga Nacional. Of that original group, the only ones that you and I would recognize at a glance are FC Barcelona and RCD Español. The remaining teams were Olímpico Fortuna, Peña Barcelonista Barcilona, Santa María Atlético, Vallés Occidental, Puente Castro (currently in the Segunda Division), and Parque Alcobendas.
The women’s league has gone through several iterations since its inception to get to the 16-team format that we are familiar with today. From 1988 through 1996, the league existed as Liga Nacional and had anywhere from eight to 12 teams at a time. Beginning in the 1996-97 season, they changed the format completely to have four groups of teams go against each other. The top team in each group would go on to play for the championship while the second and third seed teams from each group ended up in the Copa de la Reina.
The Division of Honor, the group stage phase of Iberdrola, was put to rest in the 2001 - 2002 season, and the league became Superliga Femenina. The Superliga started with a total of eight teams, but by the time its era ended they had a total of 23 teams. The Primera Division that we now know came into being for the 2011 - 2012 season and came back down to 16 teams total, listed below in order of points for the 2019 - 2020 season:
- Atlético Madrid
- Deportivo La Coruña
- Athletic Bilbao
- Real Sociedad
- Rayo Vallecano
- Real Betis
- Madrid CFF
- Sporting Huelva
Over the next few weeks, we will be taking the time to talk through the teams, their history, and some of their momentous occasions and memorable players. All of this so that you and I can have a better understanding of women’s football in Spain before the September 12th start of the 2020 - 2021 season.