Spain players have ended their boycott after overnight talks; the players wanted changes after Luis Rubiales' kiss on Jenni Hermoso at the Women's World Cup final; Patri Guijarro and Mapi Len have turned down call-ups after Spanish government said it would not enforce punishments
Thursday 21 September 2023 07:44, UK
Spain's World Cup-winning women's squad have agreed to end their boycott after the Spanish FA said it would make "immediate and profound changes" to its structure.
The boycott ended after the government intervened to help shape an agreement, although two players - Patri Guijarro and Mapi Len - opted to leave the training camp.
The government guaranteed the players they would not be sanctioned for refusing call-ups to the national team and the remaining players stayed in camp after being picked by Montse Tome, the new head coach, against their will on Monday.
The players had said they would not represent Spain until there were further changes at the federation, deepening a crisis that started after Luis Rubiales, the head of the Spanish federation at the time, kissed Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the awards ceremony following Spain's Women's World Cup title in Australia last month.
Specific details of the changes agreed upon were not revealed following the meetings involving the government's top sports official, players, Tome and federation officials. The meetings ended at nearly 5am on Wednesday.
Amanda Gutierrez, the president of the FUTRPO players' union, said steps had been made toward establishing the equal treatment between Spain's women's and men's national teams.
"An agreement has been reached to make changes to the structure of women's soccer so that the executive and administrative staff will match that of the men's team, to further professionalise the team and staff," Gutierrez said.
Victor Francos, Spain's secretary for sports and president of the Higher Council for Sports, said the "cordial meetings" led to the creation of a committee involving players, the federation and the government.
Francos added the agreements should promote advances in gender policies and equal pay, as well as lead to structural changes in women's football.
However, it is not clear if any further departures of personnel will take place within the federation.
Among the demands by the players was to have Pedro Rocha, the interim president who replace Rubiales following his resignation, removed.
Len and Guijarro have not played for Spain since they formed part of a player revolt by 15 team members last year, refusing to play for the national team until the federation established a more "professional" working environment in what turned out to be a prequel to the current uprising.
"The situation for Patri and me is different from our team-mates," Len said when leaving the team. "This was not the proper way to come back.
"We were not ready to just say, 'OK, we are back'. This is a process.
"It is true that we are happy that changes are being made."
Officials said the players did not call for Tome to step down. She was an assistant to Jorge Vilda, the former head coach who was disliked by much of the squad, and resigned during the Rubiales uproar but agreed to come back to replace her former boss.
Tome picked nearly half of the 39 players who said they would not play for the national team until their demands were met on Monday, including 15 World Cup-winning players.
Hermoso was not among them, with Tome saying the decision was made as "a way to protect her".
Hermoso, who said she did not consent to the kiss by Rubiales, had accused the federation of trying to intimidate her team-mates by picking them for the national team against their will.
The players said they were caught by surprise by the squad announcement but showed up to camp because otherwise they risked breaking a Spanish sports law that requires athletes to answer the call of national teams unless there are circumstances that impede them from playing.
Not responding to a call-up by a national team can expose a player to fines or even being banned from playing for their clubs.
The government said after the meetings that it would not seek any punishment for the players who decided to leave ahead of Spain's Nations League fixtures against Sweden on Friday and Switzerland on Tuesday.
The overnight meeting between players and officials coincided with Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish prime minister, meeting with Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president, in New York to promote Spain's joint bid with Portugal and Morocco to host the men's World Cup in 2030.
Sanchez's government had expressed concern that the Rubiales scandal could hurt the bid.
Spanish golfer Carlota Ciganda on the Luis Rubiales incident and the Spain boycott:
"I think it was a shame what happened in the end, when Spain won the World Cup, I think we should celebrate the World Cup because in the end that is not going to happen many times.
"I think that (Rubiales) was obviously wrong, he doesn't have to act like that, especially in such a public event, when you are in front of everyone."
"Obviously of course I support the players and when so many people agree, obviously things have happened that we may not know.
"But I think the important thing is to celebrate the World Cup, which is what everyone should be very proud of, the country we have and the great athletes there are."