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National associations

Developing football in Spain

The Royal Spanish Football Federation continues to set new standards for European football development, on and off-the-pitch.


Spain has a football youth system that is the envy of the game, with national teams in both the men’s and women’s game serial winners at Under-21, Under-19 and Under-17 levels for the past three decades. The Royal Spanish Football Federation’s (RFEF) ability to nurture the talented generation of David Villa, Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Fernando Torres underlay Spain’s victory in an unprecedented three successive international tournaments from 2008 to 2012.

Despite such success, the national association is constantly looking forward, guided by a long-term strategic plan to further develop the game at national and regional levels. The RFEF aims to be best in class, not only in terms of performances on the pitch, but also off it, pushing the envelope in:

  • the organisation of competitions
  • corporate management
  • social responsibility

Like many other European national associations, accelerating the development of women’s football is a key priority for the RFEF. The association hopes the inspirational record of its women’s national teams will help make football more popular than basketball among young girls.

At junior level, Spain won the FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup in 2018 and has claimed four of the last 11 UEFA European Women’s Under-17 European Championship trophies. At the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, Spain were only eliminated by the narrow score of 2-1 against eventual champions the United States in the round of 16. Hosting the 2020 UEFA Women’s Champions League final tournament in Bilbao also boosted the women’s game in Spain.

The RFEF has also taken two steps to ensure there is a clear career path for female professional footballers in Spain:

1. granting professional status to the top two tiers of Spanish women’s league football;

2. establishing a national minimum salary for women playing in the top flight.

During the pandemic, the RFEF medical team, including doctors and sports psychologists, used their expertise to support the public health service, while the association offered its facilities for use as a vaccination centre to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine. The RFEF also purchased millions of coronavirus tests to ensure that football matches could take place with minimal risk of infection.

UEFA support

UEFA's HatTrick programme, which channels EURO funds into football development across Europe, supports the RFEF's strategic goal of strengthening the game nationally by working regionally.

EURO revenue helped to implement Programa Avanza – the modernisation of the 19 Spanish regional federations responsible for organising amateur football across the country, as well as lower league competitions. By supporting and strengthening these federations, the RFEF aimed to increase participation rates across the country and invest in new areas of the game. HatTrick funding facilitated improvement of regional competition, youth player and women’s football development, referee training, the renovation of infrastructure and new social responsibility programmes.

As part of its commitment to using the power of football to promote change in society, the Spanish association is drawing on HatTrick funding to implement an innovative social responsibility project: establishing football academies at 39 Spanish prisons to help rehabilitate inmates.

Competitions will give 38,000 inmates the chance to play in penitentiary competitions, with some also training as football instructors and referees.


Association history

1889 One of Spain's first club sides, RC Recreativo de Huelva, is set up. Football is introduced to Spain by British miners working in the Basque region, from where the game spread to Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia. 1903 The Copa del Rey – still the premier national cup competition – is initiated by King Alfonso XIII. For nearly 30 years, it is Spain's only national tournament, with clubs playing in a regionalised cup competition whose play-off winners are regarded as national champions. It is soon dominated by FC Barcelona, Athletic Club and Real Madrid CF. 1909 Foundation of Royal Spanish Football Federation (Real Federación Española de Fútbol or RFEF). 1913 The RFEF receives the official royal seal of approval. By now, Spanish football has 25 officially registered clubs. 1914 Spain is admitted to football’s world governing body, FIFA. February 1929 Ten teams take part in Spain's first unified professional national league competition. 1954 Spain is a founder member of European football’s governing body, UEFA. 1982 Spain hosts the FIFA World Cup, using 16 stadiums in 13 different cities. Present day
©Getty Images

National team competitions

August 1920 Spanish national team make their debut – a 1-0 win against Denmark. 1920 Spain take silver in their first international competition, the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp. Goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora's acrobatic performances play a key role in securing victory. 1934 Zamora breaks his leg in his country's highly physical 1-1 draw with hosts Italy in a 1934 FIFA World Cup quarter-final; Italy triumph 1-0 in the replay and go on to win the competition. 1964 Spain win the 1964 UEFA European Championship, defeating the Soviet Union 2-1 in the final in Madrid with goals from Jesús María Pereda and Marcelino Martínez. The match is watched by 120,000 fans. 1982 Despite playing the 1982 FIFA World Cup on home soil, Spain are eliminated at the quarter-final stage. 1984 At the UEFA European Championship in France in 1984, the national side defeat West Germany and Denmark en route to the final against the host nation, where they succumbed to a gifted French side led by Michel Platini. 1986 Spain reach the quarter-finals at the 1986 FIFA World Cup finals in Mexico, before going out to Belgium in a penalty shoot-out. 1992 Spain win gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. 2000 Spain finish as runners-up at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. 2004 The second of Spain's FIFA Futsal World Cup titles. 2008 Spain triumph at UEFA EURO 2008, defeating Germany in the final in Vienna through a Fernando Torres goal, becoming the first team to win all their matches at a EURO since France in 1984. 2010 Under coach Vicente del Bosque, the likes of David Villa, Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta take Spain to their first-ever FIFA World Cup title. In Johannesburg, Iniesta scores the only goal of the final, four minutes from the end of extra time. 2012 Spain continue an unprecedented period of success by retaining their UEFA European Championship crown with a 4-0 victory over Italy in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. It is the first time any national side has won back-to-back EURO titles. 2016 Spain clinch seventh European futsal title. 2018 Spain's women's U19 side win the European trophy for the third time; the women's U17s win the World Cup. 2019 Spain claim the UEFA European Under-21 Championship title for the fifth time. 2023 After repeated success at youth level, Spain win their first senior women's title, lifting the World Cup after a 1-0 win over England in the final. Present day

Acting president

Pedro Rocha Junco

Nationality: Spanish
Date of birth: 16 October 1954
Acting association president since: 2023

Acting general secretary

Elvira Andrés Monte

Nationality: Spanish
Date of birth: 8 April 1976
Acting association general secretary since: 2023

Royal Spanish Football Federation website