(Reuters) - The opening round of Spain's new professional women's soccer league was called off on Saturday after female referees called a strike, demanding professional status and payment in line with the men's LaLiga.
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid were among the teams set to feature on Saturday in the first season of a fully professional women's league in Spain after its players had campaigned for years for better working conditions and pay.
Both teams issued statements saying their respective opening-round fixtures were suspended 30 minutes after the scheduled kickoff time "due to the non-appearance of the referee team".
The referees and assistant referees, who had announced a strike on Thursday, said the league had not addressed their concerns and they would not officiate any top-division fixtures "under the present working and economic conditions".
"The referees want to provide the best possible service to football and that necessarily means having minimum working conditions comparable to those of the refereeing establishment of the men's professional competition," the statement added.
The league (LPFF) responded, saying they would "not accept blackmail" and that all teams would be on the pitch for their matches on Saturday and Sunday.
"In case the referees and assistants do not appear, the LPFF will proceed to file the corresponding complaints," it said.
Barcelona, who won the Champions League in 2021, have won the Spanish League for the last three seasons.
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)