Spanish Football Federation president refuses to resign after kiss scandal

Rubiales affirms Hermoso kiss was consensual and offers unpopular manager Vilda new four-year contract 

Luis Rubiales speaks at the Spanish Football Federation's EGM on Friday, August 25
Luis Rubiales speaks at the Spanish Football Federation's EGM on Friday, August 25 / RFEF broadcast
Cillian Shields

Cillian Shields | @pile_of_eggs | Barcelona

August 25, 2023 12:49 PM

August 25, 2023 04:39 PM

Against all expectations following media reports to the contrary, Luis Rubiales has refused to resign as president of the Spanish Football Federation, 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. 

More behavior from Rubiales quickly came to light, such as his crotch-grabbing gesture in the VIP box, his uncomfortably close celebrations with other players, and his curse-laden dismissal of those criticizing his actions. 

Rubiales also made the surprise announcement that unpopular coach Jorge Vilda will be given a new four-year contract, earning €500,000 per year. 

Speaking at a Federation EGM in Madrid, Rubiales railed against what he termed as "false feminism" which he called the "great scourge of this country" that "does not look for justice or truth." Those in attendance at the meeting gave Rubiales a round of applause for these words. 

The president repeated the line various times throughout the speech that he was subject to a "social assassination." 

Downplaying the Hermoso kiss as a "peck," Rubiales also claimed that he asked Hermoso permission for the kiss on the podium, and also made the argument that it was the player who first grabbed and hugged him during the medal ceremony. According to Rubiales, Hermoso told him after the kiss, "you're great" ("eres un crack.")

"It's the same kiss I would have given my daughters," he added. Rubiales also denied that there was a position of "dominance" in the kiss, ignoring the fact that he is the Football Federation president and Hermoso is, as a player, an employee. 

Rubiales began the speech by commenting on the number of messages of support he has received in the past days, which he says far outnumber the criticism he has gotten.  

He also announced that he would look for justice in the courts against numerous left-wing politicians, such as Yolanda Díaz, Irene Montero, Ione Belarra, and Pablo Echenique for publicly using terms such as "sexual violence" and "assault" in describing the actions between Rubiales and Hermoso.  

Rubiales shook his head as he offered a brief apology "to the royal family and to those who felt offended." 

This comes only months after more than half of the squad walked out over a labor dispute with the Spanish Football Federation and coach Vilda. Many top players, such as FC Barcelona's Mapi León or Patri Guijarro, refused to return. 

Calls for Rubiales' resignation

Since Sunday's final, many figures have spoken out against Rubiales' behavior, from directly calling for his resignation to labeling his apology "to those who felt hurt" as insufficient. 

Jenni Hermoso herself revealed in an Instagram live video that she did not like the kiss, "but what could I do?" she asked a colleague off-screen. After some days, she broke her silence formally on the matter by releasing a statement through the player's union, which will be in charge of dealing with the issue. In that, "exemplary measures" were demanded.

This point of view clashes with a statement the Federation released on behalf of Hermoso on Sunday shortly after the scandal began, which contained quotes attributed to Hermoso downplaying the incident. However, some days later, Spanish sports outlet Relevo reported that the words did not come from Hermoso at all, but were written by the communications department and published directly. 

Relevo also reported that Rubiales was initially against the idea of recording the apology video, that he tried to get Hermoso to appear in the video alongside him, and that team manager Jorge Vilda pressured Hermoso's family on three occasions to feature in the apology video. 

Spain's acting Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, even weighed in on the issue, calling Rubiales' demeanor "unacceptable" and saying his apology was "not enough." Miquel Iceta, Spain's culture and sports minister, who was also present at the final in Australia, also warned that the Superior Sports Board would act if the Federation itself didn't. 

Spokesperson for the right-wing People's Party, Cuca Gamarra, called for "strong" measures after Rubiales "brought shame upon the whole country." 

The acting equality minister in the Spanish government, Irene Montero, said that a resignation would be a "victory for feminism," while Barcelona mayor Jaume Collboni also celebrated the initial reports that Rubiales would resign: "Never again disrespect women, as athletes and as people."

On the sports side, FIFA has opened a disciplinary case against Rubiales. Catalan club UE Sant Andreu were the first in the country to call for his removal as federation president, while La Liga outfits Getafe, Real Sociedad, Osasuna, Cádiz, and Atletico Madrid have all added their names to the long list calling for the decision to be made. 

FC Barcelona, where Hermoso was the team's highest-ever goalscorer in women's football, issued a statement in which they said Rubiales' comments had been "sufficient for the members present at the Assembly." 

"The incident we consider to be deplorable and Mr. Rubiales himself has admitted it was an error and has apologized," the statement, which has drawn criticism from many, reads. 

Liga F, Spain's professional women's football league, meanwhile, filed a formal complaint against Rubiales and urged his dismissal. 

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.