Luis Rubiales, the under-fire president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), has now resigned, bringing an end to an extraordinary and surreal saga.
Rubiales confirmed his resignation via a TV interview yesterday (September 10), as the result of an incident where he kissed Spanish women’s player Jenni Hermoso on the lips – against her will – on August 20 following the conclusion of the FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer tournament.
Rubiales, in the role since 2018, had kissed Hermoso during the medal ceremony following the Spanish team’s victory at the World Cup, which they won following a 1-0 triumph in the final in Sydney, Australia, against England.
Since then, he has come under pressure from multiple individual players, players' unions, soccer authorities, and governmental bodies, to resign for what is widely considered unacceptable behavior in modern society.
His decision comes after Hermoso filed an official legal complaint early last week, while on Friday (September 8), a Spanish prosecutor made an official complaint against Rubiales in the Spanish high court. In late August, the RFEF's various regional presidents had also called for him to step down.
Rubiales, 46, speaking on UK TV show Talk TV, has now said: “I cannot continue my work …
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“After the quick suspension carried out by FIFA, plus the rest of the open proceedings against me, it is evident that I will not be able to return to my position.
“Insisting on waiting and holding on is not going to contribute to anything positive, neither to the federation nor to Spanish soccer.”
He was initially elected in May 2018 and then re-elected unopposed in August 2020.
Despite Rubiales claiming the kiss had been both “mutual” and “consensual,” he had been suspended by global governing body FIFA from all soccer-related activities for 90 days.
In addition, 81 Spanish players, including all 23 from the World Cup-winning squad, had said they would not play for the team whilst Rubiales was still RFEF president.
There had also been a series of statements from members of the left-wing Spanish government, soccer players from other countries, and celebrities, over recent days and weeks, almost all calling for Rubiales to resign.
Initially, Rubiales had tried to ride out the furore, including holding an extraordinary press conference a few days after the final in which he repeatedly stated that he would not resign and that he was a victim of “a social assassination,” and a “manhunt.”
However, he has now said: “Some friends very close to me said to me 'Luis, you need to focus on your dignity and to continue your life because if not, you are going to damage the people you love and the sport you love'.
"This was a question of not only me. An attitude towards me can affect third parties [that are] very important. It was the intelligent thing that I had to do.”
The Hermoso legal complaint is one of sexual assault, while the Spanish prosecutor, Marta Durantez Gil, has also filed a complaint alleging coercion. Hermoso told the prosecutor that her relatives were pressured by Rubiales, following the incident, to indicate that the player had “justified and approved what happened.”
A high court judge will now decide whether to accept the request for an investigation, which would be led by a magistrate. The investigation, in turn, will conclude either with a dismissal or a recommendation for the case to go to trial.
Under Spanish law, the charge of sexual assault can carry a punishment of between four and nine years in prison.
The prosecutors had opened an initial investigation on August 28, while earlier this month the Spanish national sports tribunal also opened a misconduct case against Rubiales. They ruled the unasked-for kiss represented a “serious offense.”
Rubiales also had to apologize for grabbing his crotch while celebrating in the VIP area of Stadium Australia post-final, while Queen Letizia of Spain and her 16-year-old daughter stood nearby.