Luis Rubiales has today (August 25) refused to bow to the pressure and resign as president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) despite FIFA opening disciplinary proceedings against him amid a widespread backlash over his controversial behavior at the Women’s World Cup (WWC) final.
At an extraordinary general assembly held by the RFEF today in which he was expected to offer his resignation, Rubiales instead defiantly and repeatedly stated: “I will not resign.”
Following the final, which Spain won 1-0 against England to claim their first-ever WWC, Rubiales, 46, engaged in several examples of behavior that has since been heavily criticized by many observers within and outside Spain.
Most prominently, he – seemingly forcibly – kissed Spanish player Jenni Hermoso on the mouth during the winners' medals collection ceremony, an incident which Hermoso then was recorded saying she did not like.
Amid the furore and scrutiny, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee yesterday (August 24) informed Rubiales that he is under investigation.
The governing body said the events “may constitute violations of article 13 paragraphs 1 and 2 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.”
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In a statement, FIFA added: “The FIFA Disciplinary Committee will only provide further information on these disciplinary proceedings once it has issued a final decision on the matter.
“FIFA reiterates its unwavering commitment to respecting the integrity of all individuals and strongly condemns any behavior to the contrary.”
At the assembly, Rubiales claimed he was being vilified for his actions and would not be forced out. He also apologized for grabbing his crotch while celebrating in the VIP area of Stadium Australia, while Queen Letizia of Spain and her 16-year-old daughter standing nearby.
He said: "A social assassination is taking place… I'm ready to be vilified to defend my ideals. I apologise unreservedly but I don't deserve this manhunt I have been suffering."
In regards to the kiss, he defended his actions, saying he tried to console Hermoso after she missed a late penalty in the match.
He added: "Jenni was the one who lifted me up. I told her to 'forget about the penalty' and I said to her 'a little peck?' and she said 'OK'.
"It was a spontaneous kiss. Mutual, euphoric, and consensual. That's the key. A consensual 'peck' is enough to get me out of here? I will fight until the end."
Rubiales’ future as RFEF president – he has been in the post for five years – appeared to be in serious doubt with many figures in Spain, including government ministers and the presidents of several domestic LaLiga clubs, demanding his resignation, while Hermoso said in a statement that such acts “should never go unpunished.”
The most high-profile criticism of Rubiales’ actions has come from the Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez, who expressed anger at what he called an “unacceptable gesture.”
He added that Rubiales’ apology was “insufficient,” and “they are inappropriate – he must go further.”
Victor Francos, president of the Spanish Sports Council and the country’s secretary of sport, meanwhile, said the council will take action if the RFEF does not.
According to Reuters, regional leaders of the RFEF held a crisis meeting in Madrid yesterday to discuss Rubiales' future and options for a potential successor.
Rubiales also announced that controversial head coach Jorge Vilda will continue in the role for another four years. This is despite 15 Spanish players making a formal complaint to the Spanish federation regarding his management style in October 2022.
The RFEF president was first elected to the helm in May 2018 to complete the term of Ángel María Villar, the long-serving leader of the federation, who had been ousted following a corruption scandal.
He then was unopposed for an election in mid-2020, thus securing a four-year term as president.
During his tenure, Rubiales, the former head of the AFE, the Spanish footballers' association, has been involved in high-profile disputes with LaLiga president Javier Tebas over a wide range of issues.