Women’s football turns professional
Organizers aim for one of the best leagues in the world with employment terms and TV rights deals up for renegotiation
The top women’s football league in Spain has been officially declared professional.
The move was announced on Tuesday by the Superior Sports Board (Consejo Superior de Deportes,) the body of the Spanish government that organizes sport.
Attending the meeting were representatives of the Superior Sports Board, the clubs, the clubs’ association, the Spanish football federation, as well as La Liga.
“Today we pay off a historic debt,” the CSD president explained. “With female footballers, but also with the entire group of women athletes historically discriminated against simply because of their gender.”
“We are going to have one of the best women's football leagues in the world,” he added.
The new league will be known as ‘Liga Ellas’ and will have 16 teams, down from 18 this season. It will be run together by the CSD as well as the Spanish football federation, whereas up to now only the federation had been in charge.
Professionalisation will bring increased funds and exposure to the women’s game, as audiovisual rights packages will be redrawn and sold. An independent marketer must work for the awarding of rights in a joint sale, as is already the case in men's football.
Additionally, the current labour agreement of women’s football, which sets some minimum standards for employment conditions, is up for renegotiation. At the moment, the minimum salary for players in the league is set at €16,000 per annum but with a 75% partiality of the working week, so €12,000 in reality.
The labour agreement also ensures that players will continue to be paid in the event of injury, provides for an additional year to be added onto players’ contracts should they become pregnant in the final year of their deal, and guarantees some paid holiday days.
In November 2019, the entire league went on strike for one weekend in order to fight for this labour agreement, after reaching an impasse with clubs and the league after years of unsuccessful negotiations.
Espanyol-Granadilla Tenerife was the first scheduled game that did not go ahead as part of the strike.
Barcelona, champions and treble winners
FC Barcelona are the current champions of the women's league and will be the favourites to retain their crown in the first season of professionalism.
The Blaugrana have already been operating professionally for years and picked up their first-ever Champions League title this season with a 4-0 demolition of English side Chelsea in May.
Barça followed up their European glory by claiming a historic treble by defeating Levante in the cup final too.
La Masia youth academy product Laia Codina told Catalan News that the team hope their achievements can inspire young girls to pick up football as they now have a new set of role models to look up to, while at the same time break stereotypes of women and women's football, both on and off the pitch.
They achieved this feat after claiming the league title with eight games to spare and with 26 wins from 26 games played.
Their accomplishments also include scoring 145 goals in their 30 league games played so far, averaging just under 5 per game, and conceding just 13 in this time.
However, they will be the only Catalan representative in the top division in 2021/22, as Espanyol were relegated this campaign.