Spain's female football referees have called a strike as they demand better pay and working conditions, putting in danger the start of the domestic women's league.
The referees issued a statement late on Thursday saying they had "taken the decision to not work any matches of the women's first division under the present working and economic conditions." The league is scheduled to start play on Saturday. This will be the first season of a fully professional women's league in Spain, after its players campaigned for years for better working conditions and pay.
But the referees argue they have been left behind. They are asking for improved wages, saying that the 320 euros (USD 322) referees make and the 160 euros (USD 161) assistants make for each match is not enough.
"We want to get back on the field, but under the appropriate conditions," their statement read.
The women's league responded in a statement issued to local media by saying that it had presented a plan to the Spanish football federation to increase their salaries but has yet to receive a reply. The league added that if the referees did not show up for work they would face "legal and disciplinary action." The spat comes days after assistant referee Guadalupe Porras became the first Spanish woman to work a men's Champions League match: Napoli's 4-1 win over Liverpool on Wednesday.
Barcelona, the 2021 Champions League winner, has won the Spanish league for the past three seasons.