Judge deems Hermoso kiss nonconsensual and sends Rubiales to trial

Investigating magistrate says former manager Jorge Vilda and other officials put pressure on footballer to say kiss was consensual

The then head of the RFEF, Luis Rubiales, at the World Cup final, with Spain's Queen Letizia
The then head of the RFEF, Luis Rubiales, at the World Cup final, with Spain's Queen Letizia / Royal House
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

January 25, 2024 12:02 PM

January 25, 2024 01:58 PM

The investigating judge in the Luis Rubiales case at Spain's National Court has concluded that the kiss the then head of the Spanish football federation gave to footballer Jennifer Hermoso at the 2023 World Cup in Australia "was not consented to." 

The judge said that Rubiales' actions consisted of a "unilateral and surprising" move, and requested that he be put to trial. 

Furthermore, the judge has also proposed that Rubiales and several other officials – sporting director, Albert Luque, former women's team manager, Jorge Vilda, and the federation's former head of marketing, Rubén Rivera – be tried for pressuring Hermoso to state publicly that the kiss had been consensual. 

Legal consequences to be assessed 

The legal consequences of factors such as whether the kiss was erotically motivated or not, and the context of the state of euphoria due to Spain's victory in the World Cup final will have to be assessed during the trial, the judge said. 

The judge, Francisco de Jorge, also specified that it was not necessary at this stage to make a detailed or precise classification of the types of penalties Rubiales could face. 

He noted that a kiss on the lips "affects the sphere of intimacy reserved for sexual relations, in particular in the context of two adults." 

Regarding the conduct of the other three individuals under investigation, the judge considers that there are indications of the existence of a concerted action by the three men, in agreement with Rubiales, to "bend" Jennifer Hermoso's will and get her to agree to record a video saying that the kiss was consensual. 

These facts, according to the judge, could constitute a criminal offense related to the main crime Rubiales is accused of. 

Pressure on Hermoso 

According to the account of the events detailed in the judge's interlocutory, Hermoso did not have time to react to the kiss from Rubiales. At first, she downplayed its importance but, as the hours passed, she was increasingly discomforted by it and felt that she had been offended. 

This discomfort increased due to the "pressure" from Rubiales and his close circle for Hermoso to declare that the kiss had been consensual. 

Rubiales reportedly attempted to do so during the flight back to Spain and asked Jorge Vilda to speak with the Hermoso's brother to convince her to participate in a video. 

Vilda warned Hermoso's brother that if she did not agree to participate in the video there would be negative consequences for her and her career. 

Upon the team's return to Spain, and at the behest of Rubiales, Rubén Rivera asked Jennifer Hermoso "repeatedly and persistently" to speak on the phone with the football federation's director of integrity. 

When Hermoso refused on several occasions to speak with Albert Luque, Rivera tried again to convince through a friend of the footballer. 

Luque allegedly sent a message to the friend accusing her of being a "bad person". 

"Anxiety and intense stress"   

Given the accounts, the investigating judge concluded that the pressures the player was subjected to created a situation of "anxiety and intense stress" for Jennifer Hermoso. 

Because of that, he said there was sufficient evidence for him to request that the case procede to trial without the need to carry out any further proceedings. 

Rubiales banned 

Rubiales' alleged forced kiss caused outrage internationally and marred the Spanish women's football team's first World Cup triumph. 

FIFA, world football's governing body, provisionally suspended Rubiales from all football-related activity, nationally and internationally, from August 26, 2023, before banning him for three years after an investigation

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) also banned Rubiales from all football-related activities in Spain for three years. 

Forced kiss 

After the World Cup final on August 20, which Spain won 1-0 against England to become world champions for the first time, Luis Rubiales grabbed Hermoso's head and kissed her on the lips during the medal ceremony. 

The federation chief posted an apology video from the Doha airport, which drew criticism for its apparent lack of sincerity or confession of wrongdoing. It later emerged that Rubiales pressured Hermoso to appear alongside him in the video, while Spanish team manager Jorge Vilda also pressured the player's family up to three times for the same motive. 

Rubiales then refused to resign during an explosive speech given at an RFEF extraordinary general meeting, contrary to all expectations, while railing against the "false feminism" which he said was trying to "socially assassinate" him.  

The RFEF head also claimed the kiss was consensual. 

Following his refusal to step down, 81 Spanish players announced they would not be returning to the national team fold until there were significant changes in the directorship of the organization. The federation then threatened legal action against the players

The Spanish Football Federation released various statements brandishing Hermoso a liar. In a personal statement, unlike most that were sent through her union, Hermoso denied that the kiss was consensual and explained that she felt the victim of an assault.    

Manager fired 

During Rubiales' EGM speech, the manager of Spain's men's and women's teams, Luis de la Fuente and Jorge Vilda respectively, were seen applauding the federation president's words. This in turn led to widespread criticism of each team manager.  

Shortly after, the vast majority of Vilda's backroom staff resigned in protest. Yet, neither de la Fuente nor Vilda stepped down. De la Fuente later apologized for applauding. 

The women's team manager was eventually fired. Vilda had long been the subject of controversy, stretching back to a year before the World Cup, when 15 players sent letters to the federation asking for improvements and changes.