Gala León and the battle over her appointment

Original source:

The Spanish Tennis Federation has asked for an audience with Spanish President Mariano Rajoy after the National Sports Council recently requested the written proceedings of the meeting at which Gala León was selected as captain for the Spanish Davis Cup team. According to Fernando Fernandez-Ladreda, vice-president of the Federation, “This is a ploy by Miguel Cardenal, Secretary of State for Sport, to dismiss the first female captain of a male national team.”

“We’ve sent a telegram – attached to her election certificate – to the President of Spain , Mariano Rajoy, who has always supported this sport, and was present at the Davis Cup semi final in Cordoba – a match that gave us our entry to our last Davis Cup in Sevilla – asking him to straighten out this mess, considering that this manoeuvre of Miguel Cardenal comes eight months after the appointment,” explained the Federation in a press release. “Since July 2014,  Miguel Cardenal has neither visited nor congratulated Gala León, and she was forbidden from using the Sports Council room for her introduction, acts for which Cardenal has been reported to the National Court; and now he casts doubts about the legality of her appointment by demanding proceedings that have never been asked for previously, for example with Albert Costa, Alex Corretja or Carlos Moyá, just to mention a few examples.”

“In sport there must be people who know about sports,” Nadal said after beating Simon at Indian Wells. “In sports there must be people that understand. It’s as if you put me as a director of a hospital! I don’t know anything about medicine and how things work there,” continued the world number three when he found out about the situation in his press conference. “The people who run, who make the decisions, must know about the sport. It’s always a good thing when the people that make decisions have experienced all the levels of the sport: as coach, as a player, as a kid when you go and play a tournament … it’s important to have experienced all those levels to make important decisions,” continued the winner of fourteen Grand Slams. “And not only in terms of Davis Cup captaincy, but also at the federal level. It’s complicated, the way of choosing the people that make decisions in our sport. In my honest opinion, it’s complicated to find people that really understand what they need to do.”

How did we get to this point? Two regional federations (Castilla Leon and Aragon) reported to the Sports Council that the election of León as captain of the Davis Cup team wasn’t done according to the regulations. The policies of the organization that rules tennis in Spain say that the board of directors must vote on the appointment of the person who will direct the team. However, after Carlos Moya stepped down as captain last September, Jose Luis Escañuela offered León the position without a vote, even if the federation insists she had been ratified by the directors twice and they have shown “total unanimity” in supporting the first female coach of the men’s team.

That’s how the conflict came to the Senate, where the government had to answer the question of how they would fix the mess. “Prior to any possible action in the matter, it should be noted that the Royal Spanish Tennis Federation [RSTF] should clarify and examine the appointment of Gala León as Captain of the Davis Cup team as doubts have been raised about its legality. That is the responsibility of the board of the RSTF,” replied the government in a statement to Narvay Quintero Castañeda, Canary Coalition senator. “Independent of this issue, proposals and sports projects of the RSTF, monitoring and approval, are coordinated with the General Department of High Competition Sports Council, like the rest of Spanish sports federations. Finally, regarding the debate generated by the designation of Gala León as captain of the Davis Cup team, the players have already stated publicly that they have focused on sporting criteria, not gender.”

Now, while León tries to convince tennis players in Indian Wells to take part in the next event in July (Spain travels to Russia looking for their first win to return to the World Group, and many of them haven’t even talked to her) smoke is seeping out of the offices and trenches are being dug for what is coming. The message is clear: the Federation, with the men’s team in the second division and the women’s fighting relegation to the third,  is in a war that is not being played on the court.


Translated by with an assist from @markalanix