Referees in Spain went on strike for a week, forcing the league opener to be postponed. They demanded better conditions. With success.
The referees in Spain's Primera Division have ended their strike after a week. As the newspaper Mundo Deportivo reports, referees in Spanish women's soccer will receive 1666€ for each game in the future, compared with 320€ previously.
The league and the referees employed by the Spanish Football Federation RFEF are said to have agreed on this. There are also plans for reserves to be made available to the referees after their active time in professional sports. It was only in the summer that the Spanish women's soccer team declared its own professional league, called Liga F. The motto: "Without an F, it writes. The motto: "Without F, soccer doesn't spell the same".
The professionalization of women's soccer in Spain has progressed in recent years, as demonstrated most recently when European champion Keira Walsh moved from Manchester City to FC Barcelona for the world-record transfer fee of around 460,000 euros. A clear sign in the direction of European champions England. "It's good for women's soccer that the money is rolling in," said former record holder Pernille Harder. Spain's female national players now receive the same pay as the men.
Professional status and equal pay
The first matchday of the new professional league, however, went differently than expected: Actually, four matches each were to take place on Saturday and Sunday, but all had to be canceled. The reason: While the players can finally earn their living with the sport, the referees seem to have been forgotten in the professionalization of the league. That's why they went on strike, demanding professional status and the same pay as the men. Fixed employment contracts and thus aspects such as social security have so far been denied them.
Because the job as a referee is not enough financially, they usually have another main job. Referee Marta Huerta de Aza says, "We have a professional league and yet we are the only ones not considered professional." So far, she says, the league (LPFF) has not responded to their demands, and under the "current working and economic conditions," they would not referee games in the highest division.
Previously, there had been negotiations between the league and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to equalize wages - unsuccessfully. It was shameful and ridiculous to be forced to strike because they were denied rights that "every person should have," said Marta Huerta de Aza, who has been a Fifa referee since 2016 and also refereed the opening match at this year's European Championship. "We have not crippled women's soccer. We are demanding rights that everyone should have," she said Monday, adding, "If we get sick, we don't get paid. If we don't referee, we don't get paid. We're not asking for an extra financial benefit, we're asking for everything that a contract just entails."
Solidarity from male colleagues
The league then threatened the striking female referees with "legal and disciplinary action," to which Huerta de Aza clarified, "We will not negotiate with those who threaten us." He said it was up to the federation to sit down with the league and negotiate.
The referees from the first and second divisions expressed solidarity with their female colleagues and criticized: "A professional competition should not be run by a group of amateur female referees, as all the clubs that make up the competition are professional". On the RFEF website, they published a statement saying, "The time our female colleagues spend on developing their performance, both in training and in preparation, as well as in travel and appearances, makes it impossible to reconcile their refereeing activities with the practice of other professions and therefore requires a high level of commitment."
Huerta de Aza expressed her gratitude for the solidarity shown by referees, players* and the federation. "We are looking forward to going out on the field and refereeing," she said. That's what she and her colleagues can do now - without worrying about whether they can afford it financially.
All levels of soccer must join forces and work together to ensure that women's soccer improves and gains the recognition that the competition deserves with the priority to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Violence against women and girls is avoided by gender equality. It is necessary for the health of the economy. Women and men are valued equally in societies, which are safer and healthier. Human rights include gender equality and creates a healthy global society.