World Cup winners won't return to Spain fold: Women should 'feel safe'

Rubiales barred from contacting and approaching within 200 meters of Hermoso for sexual assault

Spain's World Cup-winning team lift the trophy
Spain's World Cup-winning team lift the trophy / Casa Reial
Cillian Shields

Cillian Shields | @pile_of_eggs | Barcelona

September 15, 2023 02:33 PM

September 15, 2023 04:45 PM

The World Cup-winning Spain team will not return to international duty unless further changes within the structure of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) are made, according to a statement released on Friday afternoon.  

On Friday, new manager Montse Tomé will announce the squad for next week's Nations League fixtures against Sweden and Switzerland, but the players released the text around 30 minutes before Tomé spoke.

A total of 81 players, including all of the World Cup-winning squad, signed their names to a letter just days after their triumph in Sydney, announcing they would not return to the international team until significant changes within the directorship of the federation were brought about. 

Luis Rubiales, the former president of the federation, announced he would step aside just last week, while manager Jorge Vilda has also been fired

However, these changes are "not yet enough" for "players to feel in a safe space, where women are respected, women's football is considered, and where we can give our best performance," the text reads. Therefore, players will not return. From day one, "Spanish female team players have had the will to negotiate, to find shared reasons, and to explain what we understand as needed to perform our job at the maximum level of respect we deserve," the text shared on social media reads.

The group held a meeting on Thursday night to discuss their options and decide what action to take. 

Their main arguments revolve around the treatment received by various departments within the federation, including the integrity area, communication, marketing, and football.

"Tolerance zero for those people that, from a position of leadership in the RFEF, have had, moved, hidden, or even applauded attitudes against women's dignity." The text continued, "We believe that all these people should be away from a system that protects them and, unfortunately, is not close to a developed society." 

The players don't trust the directorship of women's football in the RFEF and are worried that the changes made so far are merely superficial and carried out to save the positions of others rather than being a genuine transformation. The footballers want a new organigram in the women's football division, in the presidency department, and the secretary general, the stepping down of the president, and a restructuration of the communications, marketing, and leadership of the integrity departments."

Footballers express their "pride" in wearing the jersey of their selection and taking "our country to the best spots around the globe's competitions."

"We are making this so future generations can have a more egalitarian football and to the level that we all deserve," the text concludes.

Rubiales in court

On Friday, the former head of the RFEF, Luis Rubiales, appeared in the National Court in Madrid for a hearing in his sexual assault case. Hours later, the judge confirmed that Rubiales was prohibited from contacting or approaching Jennifer Hermoso within 200 meters of her.

Rubiales is accused of sexual assault and coercion against player Jenni Hermoso for the forced kiss during the World Cup final medal ceremony. 

In the beginning, prosecutors requested as precautionary measures that Rubiales appear in court every 15 days and asked that he be prohibited from contacting Jennifer Hermoso or approaching within 500 meters of her for the duration of the case. 

According to sources from the prosecutors' office, Rubiales denied the accusations in his statement to the National Court. 

The player's lawyer, Carla Vall, argued that the kiss was not consensual and has remarked that thanks to the video, "the whole country has been able to see it."