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Spanish women's football strike a double-edged sword

The effect a strike action can generate can be measured directly by the proportional effect the removal of the service in question has on society in general. Looking at it from this angle, the ongoing strike in Spanish women’s football, which has been brought about by well-documented and noble causes and has been fully successful in terms of adherence, leaves many question marks. Not that many people will be deprived of football, because not that many people go to watch the women’s game in Spain. Neither does it have a large following on television, where what were modest audiences are now evaporating due to the standoff between the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and broadcaster Mediapro. This strike is simply another backward step for a sport that was last season enjoying a large boost in popularity.

Voluntary efforts to fill vast stadiums with free tickets, the performance of the national team at last summer’s World Cup in France, which was somewhere between a pass and a merit, the siren song of the auction staged between the Federation and Mediapro and the radical optimism of the AFE players’ union over negotiating a collective bargaining agreement for Liga Iberdrola players has served only to lend wind to the sails of a mistake that has taken the focus off the real dimension of women’s football in Spain. A mistake that has been all too easy to let drift along at a time when women are fighting to break down barriers with the backing of any civilized human being. But there is a bull in the china shop of women’s football in Spain and its name is the market. I am fully aware that it is not a popular issue to be reminded of under these circumstances, but it is necessary to add its weight to any analysis of this thorny issue.

RFEF and Liga standoff affecting women's game in Spain

Three years ago, there were no contracts whatsoever in women’s football and it was an almost clandestine sport. Iberdrola gave it the support it needed and that led in turn to provide the media with a stimulus to report on the league that now bears the energy company’s name. LaLiga president Javier Tebas embraced the women’s league in his broad-reaching manifesto, which included showing games on Gol, a channel owned my Mediapro. RFEF chief Luis Rubiales claimed this space in the fixture lists for his own, further muddying the waters and leading to the current strike. The reasons for it and the level of impatience surrounding it are understandable, but these objectives for women’s football were within the grasp of the Liga Iberdrola perhaps within a year or so. As things stand, they could be either further away still or lost for good.