Leading figures in the Spanish football federation have called on suspended president Luis Rubiales to step down after kissing a player on the lips during the Women’s World Cup final.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the regional bodies comprising the federation (RFEF) made a collective appeal. “Given the recent developments and unacceptable behavior that has seriously damaged the reputation of Spanish football, the President collectively requests the immediate resignation of Luis Rubiales as President of the RFEF,” the statement read. Additionally, the leaders urged interim president Pedro Rocha to immediately withdraw the federation’s appeal to UEFA on Monday to suspend Spain from international competitions due to government interference in seeking Rubiales’ ouster.
The move was widely interpreted as an attempt to quell critics of Rubiales, including government officials who had advocated for his removal. Such a suspension would prevent Spanish teams from participating in events such as the Champions League and could sway public opinion in favor of allowing them to retain their positions.
Although football’s governing bodies have established rules to prevent national governments from interfering in the administration of domestic football federations, UEFA reportedly will not comply with the Spanish federation’s request for sanctions. A source familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Monday that UEFA’s decision-making process was confidential.
Rubiales has faced widespread criticism around the world for her actions during the Women’s World Cup final, most notably for kissing Spain player Jenny Hermoso on the lips without her consent during the trophy presentation on the field. Football’s governing body FIFA suspended him from his post on Saturday as it opened an investigation into his conduct.
In support of her son, Rubiales’ mother began a hunger strike on Monday at a church in southern Spain, denouncing the “inhumane and incessant” targeting of Rubiales.
The Spanish federation’s unprecedented call for a suspension appears to be a strategic move aimed at potentially confronting its critics by getting fans and influential clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and the national men’s team to support Rubiales’ retention. Rubiales also holds the position of UEFA Vice President.
Spain’s top clubs are due to take part in the UEFA Champions League group-stage draw on Thursday. Meanwhile, the men’s national team has upcoming matches on September 8 and 12 as part of its qualifying campaign for the 2024 European Championship.
FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales on Thursday, taking control of the process due to the holding of the Women’s World Cup. Attention has focused on Rubiales’ behavior during and after Spain’s victory over England in the final on 20 August in Sydney, Australia, and his management of the federation over the past five years. Notably, FIFA did not enforce its rules against government interference to protect Rubiales.
Following his suspension by FIFA, Rubiales has been banned from engaging in official duties and contact with other officials, including any communication with Hermoso. There have been allegations that the federation pressured Hermoso to publicly support Rubiales.
Despite their recent World Cup triumph, Spanish players find themselves embroiled in a national scandal they did not create that has overshadowed their triumph. He has claimed that he will stay away from further games as long as Rubiales remains in his position.
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