ROME (AP) — Female soccer players in Italy will finally be able to turn professional next season after years of amateur-only status that limited their salaries.

The Italian Soccer Federation’s executive board approved new regulations on Tuesday that open the way for a women’s professional era starting July 1 — in time for the next Serie A season.

“Today is a big day,” federation president Gabriele Gravina said. “We’re the first federation in Italy to put this change into effect.”

Italian law had limited female players to amateur status, meaning that they couldn’t earn more than 30,000 euros ($32,000) per year before taxes.

In the initial vote, the women’s league had unexpectedly voted against the change.

“There was a bit of resistance from Serie A, which wanted to propose a delay but then we reached an agreement,” Gravina said.

Added Lazio president and federation board member Claudio Lotito: “There was just a misunderstanding.”

Former Italy great and Azzurre coach Carolina Morace applauded the move.

“Let’s hope it’s not a finish line but rather a starting off point,” Morace told the Lapresse news agency. “There are a lot of examples in Europe and we’re not the first. The 90,000 spectators at Barcelona show that there’s interest in women’s soccer, even in Latin countries like Spain and Italy.”

Italy’s surprise run to the quarterfinals of the 2019 Women’s World Cup also played a role in the change, Morace said.

Nearly all of the big men’s clubs — Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Roma and Lazio — have teams that play in the growing Serie A women’s league.

“Now,” Morace added, “I hope that other federations do the same.”


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