The season of records
After the end of the Iberdrola women’s soccer league, it has become clear that this sport is here to stay and that it has more and more followers all over the country. More and more spectators are flocking to the stadiums on weekends to see their favorite players up close.
During this season, the record number of spectators at a soccer match was surpassed, with 91,553, the number of attendees at the Camp Nou breaking the world record for attendance at a women’s soccer match. The Clásico between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid is already a milestone, but once the party is over, it is time to look ahead and ensure that one day this will be the norm and not just an exceptional night.
However, Javier Tebas, president of LaLiga, spoiled the party in the eyes of many when he said on Thursday: «I prefer a women’s league with 5,000 fans at every weekend match, then with 90,000 at a game». A reality check in line with what women’s soccer in Spain is going through daily.
If we want to change things and make women’s soccer a relevant sport, the first thing that should help is the creation of the first women’s professional league. It was approved on March 14 by the Consejo Superior de Deportes (CSD) and will be launched for the 2022/2023 season on a par with the men’s soccer and basketball leagues. The next step is to elect the president of the board of the new competition with the consensus of the clubs.
The first agreement was signed two years ago
The first collective bargaining agreement for women’s soccer was signed two years ago, celebrated by all, but it will have to be updated with the creation of a competent league with guarantees. The unions will have to sit down to negotiate with a new body to, among other things, put an end to the part-time working hours, currently set at 75% and prohibited by law at the professional level.
There is still a long way to go in women’s soccer in Spain and in its clubs, which, sadly, do not live the reality of the two protagonists of the record attendance match: Barça and Real Madrid.
Most women footballers feel unprotected, and there are recurring reports of sportswomen who denounce having been victims of harassment and other abuses from the beginning of their careers. There is also much progress to be made on other issues such as family reconciliation or image rights, which will have to be addressed in the new collective bargaining agreement.
Another focus is on the visibility of Spanish women’s soccer. In addition to being watched by more than 90,000 people at the Camp Nou, the Champions League Clásico could also be followed at home on the DAZN and YouTube platforms. The rights to the women’s Champions League belong until 2025 to DAZN, which reached an agreement with YouTube for free-to-air broadcasting for two seasons.
Regarding this issue, it was Alexia Putellas, Barça star, who then left a valuable reflection: «If a girl doesn’t see a woman playing in a Champions League final, she’ll think it can’t be done. That’s why an agreement like this is so important to be able to broadcast all the matches, and for many girls and boys to see that sport is also a woman’s thing.»
The formula is working at the European level, as evidenced by the audiences for El Clásico: more than 1.3 million live views around the world, making it the most watched match to date. The group stage of the competition already had an accumulated 14 million views, but at the national level, the reality is once again very different.
The Primera Iberdrola barely has any space on television. The RTVE channel Teledeporte broadcasts only one match a week, while the rest of the day can only be seen through the clubs’ own Youtube and TV channels. That the new professional league comes hand in hand with an agreement for the broadcasting rights is an absolute necessity.
The immediate future
The great truth that El Clasico leaves behind is that women’s soccer is interesting, and the great lie is that it has enough tools to reach its place. The Camp Nou’s world record, Barça’s Champions League and Putellas’ Ballon d’Or have opened the door to real progress.
Women’s soccer is here to stay. Barça faces the challenge of lifting its second Champions League in a row, while Real Madrid (two years old) is here to stay as another spearhead of the discipline.
The next big challenge will be for the national team, which will face the European Championship this summer with the illusion of fighting for the title. They have reason to dream about it as the fifth best team in the world, according to the FIFA ranking, and with great stars in their ranks such as Putellas, Aitana or Jenni Hermoso. The coach Jorge Vilda launched a song to heaven: «The Barça-Madrid at Camp Nou was a party and women’s soccer is something that can no longer be stopped».