As men’s football chugs along — having deftly worked around the issue of COVID-19 — women’s football in Spain remains in limbo. Last season, Primera Iberdrola was suspended with 21 games played and FC Barcelona were promptly announced champions. Little effort was made to restart the competition like was done with La Liga. Now, with men’s competition set to resume in September, it is uncertain whether Primera Iberdrola will return at all given COVID-19’s resurgence in Spain.
In response, the Asociación de Futbolistas Españoles (Spanish Football Players’ Association) has released an official statement demanding that measures be enacted to ensure the return of women’s competition:
Together with the AFE, and given the uncertainty over the start of the competition, Primera Iberdrola footballers want to state:
- Our great concern on this situation that directly affects our labor relations, which, regulated by Royal Decree 1006/1985, qualifies us as professional athletes, regardless of the classification of the competition as “non-professional”.
- We understand that we have the right to guarantee the exercise of our profession and to establish the necessary measures to exercise that right with a health guarantee, since like all workers, our families depend economically on it.
- We ask that a protocol endorsed by the Ministry of Health be developed in coordination with the Ministry of Culture and Sports to guarantee the return to competition.
- It is absolutely necessary that this return to the competition be carried out as soon as possible and also that a certain date be established for the start of the same.
- The reference to the Primera Iberdrola’s classification as a “non-professional” competition has to do with the fact that the Spanish government has not provided the league with a professional license, despite much being made of the more symbolic recognition recently accorded by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).
- Royal Decree 1006/1985 regulates the special employment relationship of professional athletes.
What women football players are asking for is a quick return to play under safe conditions. Essentially, they’re requesting that Spain’s football authorities do their most basic job — organize football competition and do so in a way that doesn’t unnecessarily put players in harm’s way. This is a reasonable ask given the numerous active men’s competitions around the world and the scheduled resumption of the National Women’s Soccer League in the US.
This uncertainty comes off the back of the aforementioned discussions over professional status and a TV rights debacle that made it close to impossible for international viewers to watch the away matches of teams such as CD Tacón (now Real Madrid Femenino). In this context, it is hard to see the current predicament as anything other than a lack of seriousness by those in charge, who view men’s football as worthy of COVID-19 workarounds while considering women’s football disposable.