The successes garnered by the different divisions of the Spanish women’s national soccer team have put the unstoppable progress of this sport in the headlines over the last few years. To demonstrate how young this women’s sport is, one only needs to look back to the seventies to the birth of the first women’s clubs or to 1988 to the first official competition. However, it was in the last three years that the qualitative jump of women’s soccer became clear, not just because of the achievements of the lower divisions of the national team in European and World competitions, but because of the growing number of players, the attraction of private funding, and the professionalization of a sport that is gaining prestige by the day. The data reported by the Spanish Soccer Federation place the number of women’s soccer licenses at 42,235 for the 2017-2018 season, far exceeding the 24,906 from the 2010-2011 season.
The entry of investors like Iberdrola to strengthen women’s soccer and be the namesake of the league, as well as media outlets committing to bring this sport to all parts of society, set women’s soccer at the forefront of national sports with rising media coverage. Last season, games like Atlético de Madrid – Madrid CFF and the close game between Real Sociedad and Athletic de Bilbao were attended by over 20,000 people in the stadium, a figure that was unimaginable only a few years ago and one that encourages professional clubs to found women’s teams within their structures.
This exponential growth, combined with a wider reach arising from increased television coverage, which has reached audiences of over 400,000 viewers, shape the arguments that encourage clubs to commit to women’s soccer. This commitment has facilitated the arrival of international players to our league and with them, an unprecedented professionalization that has improved the players’ employment conditions. A few years ago, the majority of players did not have employment contracts with the appropriate Social Security contributions, while today this situation has been resolved and a collective agreement to govern the players’ employment conditions is even being drafted.
Through the women’s soccer commission, the Spanish Soccer Players’ Association (AFE) is working to prepare a common framework to govern the common demands like minimum wage, legal support, full coverage in the event of injury, a guarantee fund in the event of non-payment, and pregnancy protections, an underlying problem in modern women’s soccer, embodied by anti-pregnancy clauses. If enacted, this collective agreement would entail an unprecedented achievement that would bring this sport even closer to its male counterpart.
Support from institutions like La Liga, which promoted the creation of the Women’s Soccer Club Association, in addition to the arrival of domestic and foreign funding over the last year, ensure the sustainable growth of a sport that is carving a larger and larger place for itself within Spanish society, endorsed by media coverage that reached seven million viewers last season and by the victories achieved by the national team.