Female soccer players in Spain are going on strike as the club season begins, representatives from several players’ unions confirmed on Thursday, as a dispute over conduct by the head of the country’s soccer federation widened into a fight with the soccer clubs over pay.
Early this month, the women’s players’ union, Futpro, announced that if working conditions did not improve considerably before the start of the season on Friday, the women would not play the matches that are set to begin this weekend.
The dispute is playing out amid broader upheaval in Spanish soccer, with the firing on Tuesday of the women’s national soccer coach, Jorge Vilda, whom players had criticized for his domineering management style, and the filing of a criminal complaint against Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, by Jennifer Hermoso, a player on the national women’s team whom Mr. Rubiales forcibly kissed during a public celebration of the team’s World Cup final victory in Australia last month.
Representatives from Liga F, the Spanish women’s soccer league that is negotiating on behalf of the clubs, and six players’ unions failed to reach an agreement during meetings in Madrid this week, with pay being the biggest point of contention.
“The players are feeling pretty angry,” said Amanda Gutiérrez, the head of Futpro. “They want to play, they don’t want this war.”
Ms. Gutiérrez said that negotiations between the league and the unions have stretched on for 11 months without any progress — a sign, she said, that the league does not take the players seriously.
The current minimum salary for female players in the country is 16,000 euros, or about $17,000, compared with 180,000 euros, or about $192,000, for their male counterparts, according to Spain’s chief player union, A.F.E. The players asked for a minimum salary of 23,000 euros for the upcoming season, with the possibility for that salary to increase to 25,000 euros if the league generates more than 8 million euros in sponsor income. But the negotiations came to a halt when the women’s league refused to approve a minimum salary of more than 20,000 euros.
The women’s league says it cannot afford larger pay increases, citing a long list of expenses, including licenses and refereeing costs. On top of that, it is required to give 20 percent of its sponsorship income to the national soccer federation, which uses the money to promote its nonprofessional categories and develop its soccer programs. A spokeswoman at the National Sports Council said that the requirement for the men’s league is no different. But the men’s league generates 92 million euros from its sponsors. The women’s league earns just 8 million euros a year from its sponsors, according to official government documents.
In a statement on Wednesday, the women’s league said the decision to strike was seriously damaging to “the image of Spanish women’s football.”
Spain’s female soccer players have been demanding higher wages and better conditions for years. They reached their first collective bargaining agreement in 2020 and have been pushing to improve conditions ever since. The players are seeking higher wages, contracts that continue during maternity leave and access to the same nutritionists and physical therapists that male players use.
The strike will affect games scheduled for Friday through Sunday, and Sept. 15-17.
Discussions between the league and the unions are expected to continue next week.
“We do not understand the argument that there is no money,” Ms. Gutiérrez, the Futpro leader, said, adding that the women’s league also earns television rights and receives government funding. “It doesn’t hold up.”