Will the referees’ strike in Spain’s new Liga F create tension with players? | Sport

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Welcome to Moving the Goalposts, the Guardian’s new (and free) women’s football newsletter. Here’s an extract from this week’s edition. To receive the full version once a week, just pop your email in below:

It was supposed to be a fresh and shiny start to women’s football in Spain. The new professional league, Liga F, had been formed to ensure the sport can reach the next level in a country that saw record crowds in the Champions League last season.

And then it all fell flat. The referees went on strike, demanding remuneration that were closer to the ones for officiating in La Liga, the men’s top flight. The first weekend of games was postponed and frantic negotiations followed to see what, if any, compromise could be found.

Last Thursday there was a resolution. The officials got an increase in fees – with referees set to earn €25,000 (£21,900) and assistants €16,000 a season in a new six-year deal. They had wanted much more but at least a deal had been struck and the league could start, which it did at the weekend, the reigning champions Barcelona kicking off with a 2-0 win over Tenerife.

Lucy Bronze of Barcelona competes with Maria Jose Perez of Tenerife during a 2-0 win.
Lucy Bronze of Barcelona competes with María José Pérez of Tenerife during a 2-0 win. Photograph: Europa Press Sports/Europa Press/Getty Images

It was a sad way to begin the new season but female officials – or officials in female leagues – are often criticised for not being good enough so that it is important that they have the right conditions to improve in and do their job properly.

Some clubs and players publicly supported the referees in their fight for basic rights but some also said they would have preferred to find a solution without disturbing the grand opening. And once the games got under way the issue seemed to be too raw for some to forget. After the game between Alavés and Madrid CFF, the referee Patricia Luna wrote in her report that one of the home players, Camila Sáez, had complained about a decision saying: “You don’t know anything and now you charge more.” She was booked for the comment.

David Menayo, a reporter at Marca who has been covering the issue, says this “cannot become a fight between referees and players, for their own good and the good of the competition”. He adds: “The players will need to renew their agreement now and what the referees achieved should serve as a starting point. I think this conflict may be used repeatedly to blame referees when they make mistakes but I hope it does not go further than that.”

There are 54 members in the referee collective responsible for Liga F matches and they will now, for the first time, have a work contract, labour rights and some stability. “Now that they are supposed to dedicate more of their time to training there will be demands to see the level of officiating increasing,” Menayo adds. “After what happened, they will be under scrutiny in every game.”

Looking at the history of the women’s game around the world it is important to remember that women and girls suffer prejudice not only for playing but also refereeing, reporting, managing and coaching. The fact that a deal was reached fairly quickly was positive.

“Initially the league was in the media spotlight in Spain and around Europe because it was a potential model for other competitions,” Menayo says. “Starting with an off-the-pitch conflict didn’t help but I believe now that it has been resolved it will be seen as a small blip in the road.”

Talking points

Another record broken The Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, in the south of Brazil, holds the new record audience for women’s club football in the country after 36,330 fans watched the 1-1 draw between Internacional and Corinthians in the first leg of the Brasileirão final. For the second leg, Corinthians fans, who held the previous record, hope to get it back. They face each other again in São Paulo on Saturday at 2pm local time.

A record turnout during the match between Internacional and Corinthians in south Brazil.
A record turnout during the match between Internacional and Corinthians in south Brazil. Photograph: Sipa US/Alamy

World Cup heading to Africa? The South African Football Association (Safa) has announced it will bid to host the Women’s World Cup in 2027. The same country was also the first to host the men’s World Cup on the continent in 2010 and the recent Africa Cup of Nations for women has given the sport increased momentum.

Quote of the week

“I didn’t even dare to dream when I was a kid because I was told I shouldn’t and couldn’t play, especially in England because it was a man’s game and there were no careers in it. Now I look and I think 32,000 people here for the San Diego Wave and you look at the Women’s Euros this year and the crowds there. We’re really on to something special and I think it transcends to society” – Casey Stoney, the San Diego Wave head coach, talks about breaking the NWSL attendance record.

Want to see Mallory Pugh take off not once but twice in the same game? Of course you do. The USWNT and Chicago Red Stars’ striker went full-on turbo in a 4-0 victory over Kansas City in the NWSL. This is her first goal and this is her second. Sit back and enjoy.

Got a question for our writers – or want to suggest a topic to cover? Get in touch by emailing [email protected] or posting BTL.

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