Women's football is enjoying an explosion of popularity, with the World Cup last year just one of it's many recent successes. Even before that, women's football was extremely popular in Spain. When rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona faced each other in March of 2019, 60,739 people watched the match at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, breaking the attendance record for women's club football. In the footage of the goal Duggan scored against Atleti in front of almost 61,000, we can see an opposition fan giving her “the finger”. The following year, at Atletico's "B" stadium, Jenni Hermoso made her first away appearance against Atleti since leaving for rivals Barcelona in the summer, and the home fans boo'ed and shouted insults at her every time she touched the ball. Oftentimes women's football is seen as a sport with low attendance rates and little enthusiasm, but incidents like these indicate that competition and rivalries in women's football are to be taken seriously. This rapid growth of passion has transformed women's football into a promising investment, as one of football's biggest superpowers- Real Madrid- decided to step into women's football last year.
Real Madrid F.C approved the acquisition of Madrid-based, second-tier women's club CD Tacon for a reported €500,000 sum last year. CD Tacon earned promotion to La Liga Iberdrola for the first time in 2019.
Tacon was allowed to operate under their original name for the current season and was approved to be renamed to Real Madrid Femenino when the two clubs officially merge on July 1, 2020. The original club, which was only formed in 2013, was also allowed to train and play their matches at the training ground of Real Madrid.
Florentino Perez said the words below after acquiring CD Tacon:
“It has been growing in a spectacular fashion and Real Madrid should form part of it. The moment has arrived for Madrid to have its own women’s team. The absorption of CD Tacon will be based on its excellent academy so as to remain faithful to our philosophy. We will work to develop young talent. Furthermore, the recent promotion means competing in the Spanish top flight. There are no limitations to what we can achieve with the future of our team. Our commitment from July 1, 2020, will be to further strengthen football in our country and compete at the highest level with our club crest. The time has come to build a team that will be competitive and that we can all be proud of.”
Now, let's get into the Pros and Cons of Real Madrid getting into Women's football:
The quality of football in the Spanish league will be improved with the acquisition of top talents from around the world to Spain. The introduction of top talents from the likes of England, France, Italy, and Germany, and maybe even the United States, would improve the overall quality of the league. With improved quality, the league would become more competitive and would attract wider audiences to watch women's matches. The more quality you have, the more players are hungry for a win, the more entertaining matches there are.
Broadcast Rights and Viewership:
Television records gradually increased at the last summer’s World Cup in France. Nearly 10M viewers in the host country tuned into the opening match against South Korea, accounting for almost half of all French people watching TV at the time. Some 6M Britons saw England beat Scotland 2-1. A similar number of Germans enjoyed Die Nationalelf’s 1-0 victory over Spain. Real Madrid is going to fight along with the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid over the Broadcast rights of the Spanish Iberdrola. This will ultimately pave the way for allowing people from all over the world to watch the league and in course will increase the viewership.
El Clásico- this term doesn't need any more explanation or introduction- it's the match between the world's most famous and most bitter rivals: FC Barcelona and Real Madrid C.F. This rivalry can bring the raw emotion and already-established anger and drive that is sometimes lacking in the Spanish top flight. The fight, the tension and the pressure of getting the better between them is going to be a great addition to the Spanish League. Madrid hasn't even become an official team yet, but we have still seen quite a lot of feuds between Barca Fans and Real fans embroiling in social networks. A women's Clásico is going to add yet another layer on top of this iconic, century-long rivalry.
Better Training Facilities:
Perhaps the most important facilities a club can have are its training facilities. It is here the senior players train every day, hone their skills, and perform according to their training schedules. Training facilities will be one of the most important elements for a good youth and player development. The club's facilities also show their level of youth facilities, youth setup, junior coaching, and youth recruitment. This level of investment in the first year of operations serves as an example to other clubs that, by default, their women's sections should have the same quality of equipment and training as men. With the quality of training facilities with FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico, it will force other clubs to take women's football seriously in their investments for training and improve the women's section of the respective clubs.
We know how may UCL titles are shared by Barcelona and Real Madrid in the last 10 years. It amounts to a mammoth 7 titles out of 10. With Barcelona becoming the first top-flight team reaching the UEFA Women's Champions League Final last year and their all-round improvement since then, we can see the tide is slowly shifting towards Spain. Winning the UWCL (or at the very least qualifying for it) will be the top priority for these two clubs going forward.
Two horse race:
Eventually, the league could very well become a two-horse race between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, just like La Liga. It's not predicted to be a two-horse race next season, as many teams like Depor and Levante are looking to give a struggling Atleti a run for their money, but after a few seasons, we could start to get a taste of it. The most challenge we could see would be the mid-table race for a Copa de La Reina spot, but if everything goes as planned on the Madrid end with "Galactico" signings, Barcelona and Madrid could keep a monopoly on the two available UWCL spots and league title. If it's going to end up like that, the league will be quite boring and non-competitive, putting it at a risk in viewership decline, especially for fans of smaller clubs. You can argue that it's still a two-horse race between Barca and Atletico in Spain, Wolfsburg, and Bayern Munich in Germany, Lyon, and PSG in France. But the difference in quality will be more in Spain as players may find it appealing to move to Real Madrid or Barcelona than fancying other teams. But this is not the case in other countries.
Future of young Spanish talent:
One of the biggest concerns is going to be the future of young Spanish talent. Right now, Real Madrid is looking to buy quite a few young Spanish talents, many of which are only starting to excel in Spain's youth national teams and with upper-mid table clubs like Athletic, Sociedad and Levante. Real Madrid needs good, young players to build a base and reach UWCL qualification. However, the end goal is to play in the Champions League, and if/when they enter the competition, they are going to do everything in their power to create a winning team by signing established, experienced players from outside of La Liga Iberdrola that will win them that title. This would damage player young development by transferring them in but not giving them minutes. This is no unfounded fear either, as Tacon had no problem dismissing many original players to make room for their staggering fifteen transfers in the summer of 2019.
This is not just going to impact players from Real Madrid, but Barcelona as well. Barcelona may try to match Real Madrid with their signings and in the process would phase out the young talents coming though La Masia, and worst case scenario, follow the path of men's team. These young players in the respective teams would eventually be benched and phased out. We could see players with the potential for generation-defining talent such as Pina or Eva Navarro end their career like Bojan or Sergio Canales. We have seen something quite similar happening with the men's team since they began prioritizing transfers over promotion around the mid-2010's.
Success of Spanish National Team will decline:
The Spanish National Women's team is going through a golden age with their U20 teams and this success is slowly getting transferred to the senior squad. Their performance in the World Cup and the recently concluded SheBelieves Cup put a lot of eyes on them and, despite their FIFA rank of just 13, they are believed to be the dark horses of the Euro 2022 and World Cup 2023. This level of success coincides with the amount of faith put into their youth. Barcelona/La Masia provided the most players (7) to Spain's U20 national team squad that won runner-up at the 2018 U20 Women's World Cup. This is comparable to when the majority of the Barcelona team conjured up the Spanish team that brought about the Golden Era for Spanish football between 2008 and 2012. History repeats itself, and from what we saw with Spain's EURO 2016 and World Cup 2018 squads, it's easy to conclude that a largely Madrid-based/La Masia-deprived team lacking in team cohesion, youth, and leadership, would perform poorly. If the aforementioned worst case scenario happens where Galactico-esque signings become the majority of the rosters of Spain's top clubs, there's some fear that the women's national football team could go down a similar path.
Financial supremacy and imbalance:
Everybody knew that once Madrid decided to venture into women's football, there would be a dramatic financial gap between them and other clubs. This level of financial disparity between big clubs like Barcelona and Atleti hurts the league as-is, but a player as big as Madrid is going to create an even greater imbalance in terms of their money at hand, specifically their transfer budget. For example, if a club of Real's magnitude is going for a player, and the likes of Real Betis or any other team is interested in the player, Real are going to get the player almost by default by offering more money. This type of dominance is perhaps the most important in a sport that is gradually being dominated by money, and wouldn't allow the smaller clubs of Spanish women's football to flourish.
Madridistas and Cules can (and will) spend hours going back and forth about whether or not Madrid is needed in women's football. At the end of it all, we should hope Real Madrid getting into women's football will work out in the best way for all parties, hopefully adding a new layer of competition and enthusiasm to the ever-evolving sport that is women's football.
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