Pedro Malabia: LaLiga aim to make Iberdrola Women's League the best

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LaLiga
After reaching a world's record attendance, LaLiga official discusses the growth and goals for women’s football in Spain

You need no soothsayer to confirm the unprecedented growth of women's football in Spain. The European nation set a new world record of 60,739 - the highest ever attendance for a women's club match when Barcelona defeated Atletico Madrid 2-0 in Madrid on March 17, 2019.

Back in January, a national record attendance was set at 48,121 when Athletic Bilbao hosted Atletico Madrid in a Spanish Queens' Cup with the visitors claiming a 2-0 win.

Following these landmarks, Pedro Malabia, director of women's football of LaLiga spoke on the motives behind professionalising and commercialising the women's game in Spain.

"LaLiga is the agency running the men's professional league in Spain but women's leagues are managed by the Royal Spanish Football Federation," Malabia told Goal .

"But LaLiga in 2015 decided to start a project to promote, drive and professionalise women's football in Spain. So, we have two responsibilities, first is to ensure many of our men's professional clubs in the first and second divisions have a women's team. Also is the responsibility to help the clubs to be up-to-date and also develop.

"To this end, a department for women's football was created in LaLiga for assessment, promotion as well using the power of men's football through LaLiga to help promote and empower women in football. We decided to walk hand in hand with all clubs in other to develop strategies that will help women's football get more visibility, create tractions, sponsors, and also create a product that will help them grow."

He continued: "The challenges have been there since we started the project. Women's football in Spain was not as developed as expected. We had, on one hand, clubs investing a lot of resources and really had visions for women's football and also create something special but they were facing challenges that were not helping them to grow.

"The environment was not a proper one. It was an unprofessional competition without any commercial strategy, no visibility on TV and neither here or there with the top Spanish players moving abroad to play in other leagues.

"So, these were our problems and we sat down to look at doing things differently. I think that we've been successful so far because the visibility has increased, clubs are more professionals, the talents, salaries have increased, and we are achieving but the biggest challenge now is to keep on growing."

Atletico Madrid women fans

While reviewing his activities, Malabia took time out to share secrets behind LaLiga's recent successes and the growth of the Iberdrola Women's League.

"I think it was part of the strategy. Our first objective was to create a product that is interesting, acceptable and attractive to fans, companies that want to invest and for TV. When this comes, you will care for the product, you care for the TV exposure, you will get quality visibility, then things start all over. We decided to look at the professionalisation of the structures of the clubs," he continued.

"We decided to invest, giving money to the clubs in order to allow them to be prepared for the future. So that they can hire people for marketing, communication and finance. We wanted them to prepare the structure for the professional future we are heading for. We really invested massively in these areas using the power of LaLiga, including all its social networks, communication platforms to show people that there is something called women's football, players and clubs.

"We are creating continuously contents about women's football from a difficult side. We solicit supports for countdowns, we pay match directors that cared that everything is in place and overall, taking a cue from the men's professional football in order to apply it to women's football.

"We also want to showcase our women's league to the world and we have several partnerships with countries around the world. For example in Africa, we had with Nigeria and South Africa - all these for idea exchange, learning the best practices and developing women's football strategies."

La Roja  will be competing in the second appearance at the 2019 Women's World Cup in France after Canada 2015. At the youth level, they ended as third in 2016 and champions in 2018 at the U17 Women's World Cup. Spain also finished as winners of the Uefa Women's U19 Championship and second at the 2018 U20 Women's World Cup. 

The huge progress recorded in the women's football at the international level recently were not unconnected to the improving standards of the women's league, according to the football administrator.

"Spain have traditionally been successful at international youth level but we need to understand that the players are on daily basis with their clubs and the better the league standards, the better the resources the clubs are investing in the education of their players, of course, the better the national teams will be.

"It's not by a miracle that our women's teams have succeeded at the youth level and senior team at the Euros and World Cups. It is the merit of clubs, who have invested in having the best coaches, best facilities and medical and physical conditions. We cannot forget the important role the clubs are playing in it."

Pedro Malabia - LaLiga

In a bid to build on recent successes, the administrator looks back on their incredible journey since October 2015, while unearthing LaLiga's goals for the future of women's football.

"I think it's something we should give a big plus to the clubs. The clubs being able to open the men's stadium which is a massive work in itself. They've really earned it. It's something that shows they feel sure and they know that have something strong in their hands," he explained.

"In the past few years, there have been some big stadia opening but I remembered three years ago when Levante asked if they can open their stadium and eight thousand came in which was amazing and, then Valencia opened and had 17,000 spectators and that kept on growing before they were saying why not.

"Now, they can see that they are successful and it's not only about their children going to watch the players but about the fan base. it's about a lot of fans that really feel they are supporting the same club, having a sense of belonging.

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"Barcelona fans can be proud of the women and men's teams because they are two first teams. When the product is interesting to everyone. It calls for everyone to say listen to something is going on here. We want to keep taking those little steps. Let's see maybe in 10 years, we are able to open the stadium and see more over 40 to 60,000 fans being attracted because if more people are interested in the product more companies will invest.

"I think the key challenges and objectives for the future is to keep on growing. I know that everyone expects a big success each year but I think the most difficult thing right now is to keep on growing. We need to keep working on the facilities and visibility and improving the conditions of the players. We need to get more resource to grow and develop our strategies. We have great talents, country, fan base and football culture.

"We aim to make the best women's league in the world and not to be compared with the men's professional football. We must not forget that this project started four years ago and so we need to be patient and work on growing the clubs, attracting more fans and creating the best product of the women's game."

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