Women soccer players in Spain are striking—missing at least the first two games of their season—after failing to come to an agreement with the league on better pay as Spanish soccer continues to deal with the aftermath of its chief nonconsensually kissing a female player after the country’s World Cup win.
The largest of the unions announced the potential of a strike last week, saying they hope to achieve “fair and just treatment for the players,” with the biggest point of contention surrounding pay: The minimum salary for men in the first division of La Liga is $197,000, the Associated Press reported, and for women it’s $17,400.
Players asked the minimum be raised to about $26,768 this year—though they lowered it to about $24,627 while trying to negotiate—but said in the strike announcement that Liga F won’t discuss a minimum above $21,414 with the potential to increase slightly if the season generates more than $8.5 million in profit.
Liga F said in a statement that it proposed a gradual increase over three years to get to around $26,768, and proposed removing part-time contracts and increasing child care benefits, but that the union response was “negative.”
The strike will start this weekend, and go through the following Sunday, September 17.
In its statement Wednesday, Liga F said: “The irresponsibility, lack of spirit and lack of vision of the unions has led players to a strike that is seriously damaging the image of Spanish women’s football at a time when all players should have understood the obvious potential for growth from which all parties could have benefited if the common interest of the project had prevailed over personal interests.”
The failed negotiations come as Spanish women’s soccer is facing near-constant upheaval after Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) head Luis Rubiales was placed on suspension and is facing legal action for kissing Jenni Hermoso, a female player, on the mouth—she maintains without her consent—after Spain won the World Cup in late August. Rubiales has been placed on a 90-day suspension by FIFA and has had countless calls to resign, but said he won’t step down and called the outrage over the incident “idiotic.” On Tuesday, Spain’s women’s soccer coach Jorge Vilda was fired and though the RFEF didn’t give a reason, Vilda’s firing came shortly after RFEF released a statement apologizing for Rubiales’ “totally unacceptable behavior” and ensuring a “profound and immediate restructuring” of the program. Last season, Vilda faced calls to resign when 15 players said he had “inadequate coaching methods” and that he created a “dictatorial” environment.