'Me Too moment of Spanish football': Government aim to force dismissal of Rubiales 

Football Federation president's refusal to resign draws widespread condemnation

A screenshot from the television broadcast of the non-consensual kiss from Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales on Jenni Hermoso
A screenshot from the television broadcast of the non-consensual kiss from Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales on Jenni Hermoso / Catalan News
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Madrid

August 25, 2023 01:44 PM

August 25, 2023 05:44 PM

Spain's Superior Sports Board ('Consejo Superior de Deportes', CSD), the government body in charge of sports, has promised they will act and force Luis Rubiales' dismissal after he refused to resign as president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) following a week that saw the voices calling for his removal from the post grow and grow. 

The scandal began last Sunday when Rubiales forcibly kissed Spain forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the medal ceremony after Spain won the World Cup. 

Speaking in a press conference on Friday evening, Víctor Francos, president of the CSD, said that the body will present a case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the federation president.

Francos said that this could be the "Me Too moment of Spanish football", and pointed out that the process that the government body is undertaking is a very difficult one, as such, they don't want to come up against legal challenges that could see the case fall apart.

The CSD chief also explained that the government did not want to act until Friday's EGM at the football federation, in which Rubiales was widely expected to resign, but did not. "The results [of the EGM] were not satisfactory in the eyes of the government."

"Rubiales did not live up to what was expected of him by the players, the government, and Spanish society. He has let us down with his reaction," Francos said.

CAS will now evaluate the case and open the door for Rubiales to be suspended from his post. Francos explained that the CSD are sending their own case to CAS, separate to other complaints that have already been made about Rubiales. 

"We will suspend [Rubiales] from his functions if CAS agrees that what happened classifies as serious misconduct," Francos announced.   

This comes only months after more than half of the squad walked out over a labor dispute with the Spanish football federation and coach Jorge Vilda, some of which did not return to play in the World Cup.

Sexual assault complaints go to National Court

Spanish prosecutors have referred four complaints of alleged sexual assault against Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales to Spain's National Court. 

According to sources from the Attorney General's office, the complaints have been brought to the National Court because the events took place outside of Spain.

However, the same sources say that at the moment the prosecutor's office "has not opened any investigation" against Rubiales, and the transfer of the allegations is "a mere procedure."

Rubiales refused to resign during a federation EGM on Friday, contrary to expectations, when many media outlets had reported from the night before that he would step down. 

The Football Federation's own Protocol Against Sexual Violence explicitly points out that "forcing a kiss" is classified as sexual violence, and the regulation provides for "immediate consequences."

Rubiales, however, claimed that he received Hermoso's permission for the kiss on the podium. 

Luís Rubiales has also stated that he will take legal action against Yolanda Díaz, acting Spanish deputy prime minister, and Irene Montero, acting minister of equality, as well as other Sumar politicians for accusing him of committing assault. 

Widespread condemnation

Politicians and public figures have reacted to Rubiales' refusal to resign on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, some asking the Spanish government to fire Rubiales from the Football Federation.

Catalan president Pere Aragonès called for the "immediate resignation" of Rubiales after his speech blaming "false feminism" for the criticism of his behavior, which Aragonès considered "abominable."

"Women's rights and freedoms must always be defended," Aragonès added, criticizing that "it is not worth keeping quiet, nor applauding or protect masculinity."

"What we saw today at the Football Association was unacceptable," Sumar leader Yolanda Díaz wrote. 

"Silence has not worked and discrediting the victim, her support networks, and the feminist demand for the right to sexual freedom will not work either," acting equality minister Montero commented. "Only yes is yes."

Her Catalan counterpart, Tània Verge, criticized not only Rubiales' "sexism" but how "a large part of the RFEF's general assembly laughs with him, applauds when he attacks feminism, and condones behaviors that are being rejected everywhere."

Javier Tebas, president of La Liga, alluded to the "difficulties" of working with Rubiales as well as saying that "it is in Rubiales' interests to lie and portray himself as the victim."

Borja Iglesias, striker for Spain and Real Betis, announced that he will no longer play with the Spanish national team until "things change and this kind of acts no longer go unpunished."

Fellow players criticize behavior

Two-time Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas, who played the last minutes of the World Cup final last Sunday and who briefly walked out over the dispute with the Spanish federation last year, called Rubiales' words "unacceptable."

"It's over," she wrote. "I'm with you, friend @Jennihermoso."

Aitana Bonmatí, the Sant Pere de Ribes native who was named the tournament's best player only days ago, said that "there are limits that cannot be crossed."

Their fellow FC Barcelona Femení colleague Mapi León, who did not return to the Spanish national team after the labor dispute, also commented on the Rubiales affair. 

"We haven't had to wait much to see that what we demanded a few months ago was not a simple tantrum," she said in reference to the women's football protests' critics. 

"The images speak for themselves, and I don't think there is much more to add."

Patri Guijarro, another Baça player who refused to return to the Spanish team after the walkout, wrote: "It's unfortunate it had to get to this point for people to believe that the complaints from months ago were real."