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Spain's female referees still at impasse after strike cancels league start

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Spain's female referees consider it "shameful and ridiculous" that they were forced to go on strike after being deprived of working rights that "every person should have."

The opening round of the country's new professional women's football league was called off on Saturday after female referees protested against their current working and economic conditions.

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"It's shameful and ridiculous that we have to stand here and demand our rights," Spanish referee Marta Huerta told a news conference on Monday.

"We have not paralysed women's football. We are asking for rights that every person should have."

The referees are demanding improved wages, stating that the €320 ($322) referees make and the €160 ($161) assistants are paid for each match is not enough as they also have to pay their travel expenses.

"If we become ill, we don't get paid," Huerta said. "If we don't referee, we don't get paid. We are not asking for something extra financially, but rather everything that a contract entails.

"We have a professional league and yet we are the only ones not considered professional."

The league (LPFF) said at the weekend it had presented a plan to the Spanish FA 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.''

"We ask for respect, especially from the women's league [LPFF], referees are not puppets," Huerta said.

Referees said they would not sit down and talk with league representatives on Monday afternoon as the LPFF had proposed.

"We are not going to negotiate with those that are threatening us," Huerta said. "They [league] want all my colleagues that are here to be disqualified. We are part of the federation so it should be the federation to sit down with the league and negotiate."

The Spanish Technical Committee of Referees (CTA) expressed their solidarity towards female referees, saying in a statement: "The time that our colleagues dedicate to the development of their performance both in training and preparation, as well as in trips and performances, make it unfeasible to combine their refereeing work with the performance of other professions and therefore require dedication.... All levels of football must unite to ensure that our women's football improves and achieves the global recognition that our competition deserves."

Huerta insisted that they are the first that want the situation resolved.

"We are looking forward to going out there [on the pitch] and referee," she said.

"I want to thank the Spanish FA for their support, our colleagues, players and teams. We have received countless expressions of affection. We know that they [female players] fought and now they are with us."

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.