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Spain’s women soccer players end boycott after federation commits to ‘profound’ structural changes

Spain’s women soccer players end boycott after federation commits to ‘profound’ structural changes
Ivana Andrés of Spain lifts the Women's World Cup trophy and players celebrate winning the Women's World Cup 2023 at Stadium Australia on 20 August, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo: Daniela Porcelli/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

It seems that the ongoing standoff between Spain’s women soccer players and the Spanish federation has come to a conclusion after the latter committed to implementing structural changes that the players have been demanding.  

Spain’s World Cup-winning squad agreed to end their boycott of the national team on Wednesday after the country’s soccer federation (RFEF) said it would make “immediate and profound changes” to its structure.

The decision was reached in the early hours of Wednesday morning after more than seven hours of meetings at a hotel in Oliva, an hour from Valencia. The consultations involved the players, RFEF officials, the National Sports Council (CSD) and the women’s players’ union FutPro.

The players had said they would not represent Spain until there were further changes at the federation, deepening a crisis that started after former RFEF boss Luis Rubiales kissed Jennifer Hermoso on the lips during the World Cup presentation ceremony.

“A joint commission will be created between RFEF, CSD and players to follow up on the agreements, which will be signed tomorrow,” CSD President Victor Francos told reporters.

“The players have expressed their concern about the need for profound changes in the RFEF, which has committed to making these changes immediately.”

Jennifer Hermoso

Honoka Hayashi (right) of Japan in action against Jennifer Hermoso (left) of Spain. (EPA-EFE/Ritchie Tongo)

Neither Francos nor Rafael del Amo, president of the RFEF committee for women’s football, would elaborate on the changes to be made, only saying they would be announced “soon”.

“The players see it as a rapprochement of positions. It is the beginning of a long road ahead of us,” FutPro president Amanda Gutierrez told reporters.

“Once again, they have shown themselves to be coherent, and the vast majority have decided to stay for the sake of this agreement.”

After most of the Women’s World Cup winners were selected for upcoming games, the players said in a joint statement they would take the “best decision” for their future and health after they studied the legal implications of being included in a squad list they had asked to be left out.

They argued the federation cannot require their presence because they alleged the call-up was not issued within the world’s soccer governing body Fifa parameters in terms of timings and procedure.

The players could have faced sanctions including fines of up €30,000 (about R608,000) and the suspension of their federation licence for two to 15 years according to Spain’s Sports Act if they had refused the call-up.

Twenty players, who said they were boycotting the team, were called up by new coach Montse Tome, and while all of them reported for training on Tuesday, two decided to leave the squad for “personal reasons”.

Neither of the players would be sanctioned and it was agreed their identities would remain anonymous.

“The first thing they have been told here has been: whoever is not at ease, does not feel strong enough, should know that neither the federation nor the CSD was going to apply a sanctioning process,” Francos said.

Luis Rubiales

Spanish former RFEF President Luis Rubiales. (Photo:EPA-EFE/Juan Carlos Hidalgo)

World Cup controversy 

The revolt by the players was triggered after former RFEF chief Rubiales kissed forward Hermoso on the lips following Spain’s World Cup victory.

She disputed his insistence the kiss was consensual, sparking a national debate about macho culture in sport and eventually led to Rubiales’s resignation.

Hermoso was not in the squad list announced on Monday and accused the RFEF of trying to divide and manipulate the players.

Spain are set to make their debut in the Women’s Nations League against Sweden in Gothenburg on Friday, before playing against Switzerland in Cordoba on 26 September.

The Nations League will determine which teams from Europe qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

The RFEF said the players would have a late breakfast after resting and will hold their first practice on Wednesday afternoon before travelling to Gothenburg on Thursday morning. DM/Reuters

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