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Spain in curious limbo amid Jorge Vilda issue and surge in sponsorships

Jorge Vilda, the coach of the Spain women’s football team, puts on a brave face. As it stands, he’ll be sidelined in his side’s upcoming games, except his selection will bear little resemblance to the lineup he’d usually field. That’s because mass player complaints against him, and the women’s sports setup in general, have left the boss with options exhausted and a storm to weather.

With many established stars abandoning ship, Spain will change a lot when they take on powerhouse Sweden and USA in upcoming international fixtures. Among those who exclude themselves are Ballon D’Or holder Alexia Putellas, one of Barcelona’s six stars, including goalscorer Jennifer Hermoso and captain Irene Paredes.

Spain’s national football federation, the RFEF, even claimed that some players wanted him gone after receiving messages from a group of them. Based on this, Vilda’s position doesn’t seem tenable, but maybe it is for now. The RFEF remains in its corner, and the manager has no intention of deserting his post.

This puts the women’s project at a crossroads, but it’s not the only state of flux surrounding the national game. More broadly, positive trends are emerging, with Mark reporting that sponsorship interest (Spanish) in women’s football – of which Spanish dominance is a huge part – has multiplied over the past three years. And everyone can guess how far it can go.

Granted, Barcelona haven’t been shy about selling a lot of their rights to make some money, but their deal with Spotify, which also extends to the women’s team, shows they’re in on it. Away, Spain’s Liga Iberdrola has been the breakout division across Europe, producing and attracting some of the best talent and raising club profiles. If its commercial value was in doubt, DAZN’s acquisition of Iberdrola’s television rights until 2027 shows that there is an audience and, therefore, space for brands to get more involved.

Indeed, at the World Football (Soccer) Summit in Seville, attendees proposed that the surge in sponsor intrigue, which is expected to “skyrocket in 2023”, is tied to television viewership. and growing social media attention year after year. It doesn’t seem to be changing.

So a lot of what’s holding it back could stay at the top. Although very unfortunate not to have Putellas involved at the European Championships, Vilda’s insistence on presiding over a game based on almost obsessive possession made her both a fierce and somewhat one-dimensional competitor. Despite all the talent, Spain haven’t advanced as much as they should when the pressure is on. A happy and successful side is what is missing.

All the drama, in broad daylight, is not good news for Vilda, the federation or the players. It shows what they want, though. Putellas and his teammates are pretty good at knowing what number they need to rally them and, as the frustration points out, Vilda isn’t the answer.

It is hard to imagine this stalemate continuing long into the future. Vilda, with extensive national experience and an eye for detail, has been at the helm for seven years. Players like Putellas and Hermoso are too good not to represent their nation with a World Cup coming up next year. If they did not reconsider their positions, it would surely force the hand of decision-makers, paving a freshly trodden path for a game that continues to gain momentum.

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