The return to football normalcy across Europe has once again highlighted the discrepancy between men's and women's football. With most major European men's leagues returning to play in the coming days and weeks, including Serie A later this month, the women of Serie A Femminile have been kept in the dark the past three months, not knowing if or when their league would resume. Unfortunately, they were not the only women's league kept in limbo these past few months, as only the Frauen-Bundesliga in Germany has resumed play.
While there were some faint hopes of a restart in recent weeks—indeed, some teams brought their players back and began training—the FIGC just dropped the hammer:
Serie A femminile: il campionato non ripartiràhttps://t.co/jkydekJBmQ— skysport (@SkySport) June 8, 2020
Moments ago, the FIGC Council announced that the Serie A Femminile season, which had six rounds remaining, has been canceled. The women may not be paid or treated like professionals, but like virtually every other professional league on earth, Serie A Femminile has promotion, relegation and continental qualification schemes that can only be fully resolved after an entire season of play.
And with that no longer in the cards, the FIGC has proposed two plans to decide the league title, European qualification and promotion/relegation:
Plan A would see a playoff and playout system to decide the top and bottom halves of the tables—though not every team would be involved—while Plan B would see the dreaded algorithm solution decide the final standings.
After being kept at arm's length for three months only to be met with such half-measures, the women of Serie A Femminile weren't exactly thrilled with this decision. In a joint statement via the player's association, the players addressed the FIGC's decision:
Follow that link for the original release in Italian, but in essence the players are saying that a playoff/playout scenario wouldn't guarantee true fairness because, among other things, not all teams have been called up for training and, more to the point, any scenario in which only half of the 12 teams would decide the season is, in and of itself, inherently unfair.
Sensing an impasse, the council just decided that the league will be settled by the algorithm. Juventus, despite being in first place, will not officially win a title, while the algorithm decided that Fiorentina (who were even with Milan on 35 points) will be awarded Italy's second and final Champions League place. Orobica will be relegated to Serie B while Napoli will earn promotion to Serie A.
On the decision, Ludovica Mantovani, the head of Women's Football at the FIGC, voiced her disappointment, saying that the teams were fragmented and that league lost a great opportunity.
Keep in mind, this entire process was playing out in real-time over the past couple of hours (even while I was writing this, which was fun), but we'll end with the salient portion of the player's statement—their concern regarding the development of women's football in Italy.
What appears in summary to our eyes is that our system needs to be reformed. It is time to decide which direction we need to take so that similar situations no longer exist. We are the female Serie A players, we talk about us and the companies of the national team of which some of us are part and which we feel are ours. But it is time to guarantee the right protections for all of them, professional status and real conditions of professionalism. As always, we do not comment on the continuation or otherwise of this season.
We are aware that it could be an opportunity for us to resume, but we also believe that the real opportunity that has emerged in recent months, or perhaps a need that can no longer be postponed, is to push this system upwards, making it grow and putting the right ones bases to elevate ourselves as footballers, together with our clubs and our federation, to give substance and real resources to this piece of football that is already in the hearts of many at the image level.
It's a shame we won't get to see the final six rounds of play concluded, especially since Roma had a decent shot at finishing second and grabbing the league's final Champions League spot, but kudos to the player's association for using this decision to shine a light on the broader and more important issues facing the league and its players.
The tide of goodwill the league engendered following Italy's run through the 2019 World Cup is in danger of being squandered. With the league dragging its feet in professionalizing the women's game, they not only risk losing domestic stars like Alia Guagni to foreign leagues, but the development of the game and the league itself could be stunted.
The players are right, it's time to push this system upwards. Italy has the talent and star-power to be a force in women's football. Now is the time to advance not retreat.
We'll keep updating this as new information is released, but keep an eye out for our post-season wrap-ups in the coming days and weeks.