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Tensions Arise between players and the Royal Spanish Football Federation

Given the history of Women’s sports around the world, it is likely no surprise to hear that there is often a feeling of mistrust between these athletes and the federations they are associated with. In the United States, we all look to the USWNT’s fight for equal pay as an example. Right now, though the biggest example of this is playing out in Spain.

On September 22nd it was reported that 15 members of the Spanish Women’s National Team had resigned from the squad. According to news reports in Spain, the players had issues with several aspects of Head Coach Vilda’s approach. The federation’s statement alluded to these concerns saying the players had written about the effect of Vilda’s management and coaching style on “their emotional state and their health.” It has been reported that the players are unhappy with the management of injuries, the atmosphere in the locker room, Vilda's team selection, and his training sessions

In response, the Royal Spanish Football Federation backed the head coach and remained firm that they would not remove the coach. The federation also asserted that for the players to return they would need to apologize for their actions and admit fault. Also threatening bans between two to five years for this being what the federation considers a “very serious infraction.”

On September 23rd further clarity was brought to the situation. Team captains Irene Paredes, Jennifer Hermoso, and Patri Guijarro have stated that they did not request the coach’s dismissal but had communicated the feelings of the players. Feeling as though there were internal aspects that could and should be changed. A statement shared by the players on the 23rd stated “We requested in our communication sent to the RFEF not to be summoned until situations that affect our emotional and personal state, our performance and, consequently, the results of the Selection and that could lead to undesirable injuries are reversed.”

It is also important to note that the players have reiterated that they wished for this to remain internal and did not want to publicize these issues. Faulting the federation for making these issues public. Players have also contended the federation’s statement that they “renounced” the national team; asserting rather that they wanted situations affecting their emotional state and performance to be reversed before their return.

This standoff is not the first issue in the term of Rubiales, the federation chief since 2018. In one of his first acts as president, fired the coach of Spain’s men’s national team on the eve of its opening match at the 2018 World Cup. He was under scrutiny after leaked messages revealed a questionable management style and business practices. He has also had to deny claims of using soccer funds to pay for lavish private events.

With this issue being ongoing it is difficult to know what will happen next or where this will go. But the federation’s statement remains strong that team selection decisions are non-negotiable. Making the standoff a “high-risk move” for the players.

But taking a step back there are two important secondary things to consider. This is not the first time Women’s National Team Players have had to take drastic steps to be taken seriously and have action be taken. It is on par with the increase in labor movement activities we have seen here in the United States. Workers are realizing their collective power and fighting for environments that are better and safer for them. The second is that the USWNT is no stranger to similar mistrust and major complaints against their federation. USWNT is scheduled to play Spain on October 11 in Spain for an international friendly. Depending on how this issue plays out it may not be out of the question for the team or its players to do something in support of the 15 Spanish players.

In the meantime, the team is set to play next on October 7th leaving little time between the onset of these issues being made public and their next game. Further complicating the issue and any attempts at a resolution between the players and the federation, giving this “standoff” more power.

Emlyn Goodman is a recent Law Graduate who currently working in NCAA Compliance. She can be found on Twitter @emlyngoodman and on LinkedIn at

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