Spanish football federation threaten legal action against World Cup-winning team

Statement accompanied by still photographs aims to prove Hermoso hoisted Rubiales up but says nothing about forced kiss

Luis Rubiales and Jenni Hermoso at the World Cup final medal ceremony, August 20, 2023
Luis Rubiales and Jenni Hermoso at the World Cup final medal ceremony, August 20, 2023 / RFEF
Cillian Shields

Cillian Shields | @pile_of_eggs | Barcelona

August 26, 2023 12:10 PM

August 26, 2023 12:21 PM

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) issued another statement late on Friday night threatening legal action against the Futpro player's union and the World Cup-winning team. 

The aim of the statement was to defend the "honorability" of Luis Rubiales, under fire this week for a forced kiss on player Jenni Hermoso, and tries to contradict Hermoso's version of events. 

The player, Barça's top goalscorer in women's football, published a statement earlier on Friday night saying it was "completely false" that she consented to the kiss.

Also as part of her statement, she denied lifting up the federation president during the medal ceremony in the moments before the non-consensual kiss took place, and the RFEF provided four still photographs to show that the player lifted the president, along with a forensic analysis of the positioning and movements of each person to justify the events.

The statement of more than 850 words focuses heavily on Hermoso supposedly lifting Rubiales in the air, and this is given as a justification that the president "has not lied." The statement only mentions the kiss once, when quoting Hermoso's line that she did not consent to it, and does not focus on disputing that. 

The statement also pours doubt over whether the words, published through the player's union, truly came from Hermoso, despite the fact that the player announcing this week that she is allowing the union to control the matter on her behalf.  

"In a state of law, as the president has defended, opinions are countered with facts and evidence, and lies are refuted in the courts. The evidence is conclusive and President Rubiales has not lied," the federation statement reads. 

"The RFEF and Rubiales will prove each one of the lies that are spread either by someone on behalf of the player or, if that were the case, by the player herself."

The RFEF also insisted that "in the face of the gravity of the content" of the Futpro union's press release, it will take the "appropriate" legal actions. The federation also warned the players, who said they would not return to the national team unless the current directorship continues, that participation in the national team "is an obligation of all federated people if they have been called up."

Hermoso: I feel victim of an assault

Spain forward Jenni Hermoso has denied that she consented to the forced kiss from football federation president Luis Rubiales after last Sunday's World Cup final. 

In addition, the World Cup-winning squad has announced in a joint statement that they will not return to the international team until Rubiales is no longer in his post.

"I want to clarify that, as seen in the images, in no moment did I consent to the kiss that he gave me, and of course, under no circumstances did I hoist up the president," Hermoso said in a statement given through the player's union, FutPro. 

In a personal statement, Jenni Hermoso underlines that Rubiales' version of events are "completely false," she described the forced kiss as "machista," and confirmed that she feels "a victim of an assault." 

"Sincerely, I felt disrespected."

The joint statement, signed by 81 different players, including Hermoso, two-time Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas, and one of the players of the tournament, Aitana Bonmatí, along with all other members of the World Cup squad, finished with a plea for "real structural changes." 

Rubiales refuses to resign

Luis Rubiales gave an explosive speech at a federation EGM on Friday afternoon in which he refused to resign, contrary to all expectations.

After a week that saw the scandal spread across the world and the number of voices calling for the resignation of Rubiales grow and grow, the federation president railed against what he termed "false feminism" which he termed "the great scourge of this country." Those in attendance at the meeting gave Rubiales a round of applause for these words. 

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

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.") In the latest statement given through the union FutPro, Hermoso has completely denied this to be the case.

Government aims to force Rubiales out

Spain's Superior Sports Board ('Consejo Superior de Deportes', CSD), the government body in charge of sports, has promised they will act and force Rubiales' dismissal. 

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.   

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