Spain’s players have refused to play for the national women’s team while football federation president Luis Rubiales remains in post.
Rubiales has refused to resign after kissing forward Jenni Hermoso – who has stressed she did not consent – following Spain’s World Cup final win over England in Sydney last Sunday, claiming it was “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual”.
The Spanish government will push for the suspension of Rubiales but 81 players – including all members of the victorious squad – have taken matters into their own hands by effectively going on strike while the “current leaders” remain in position.
“As a result of the events that occurred this morning and given the perplexity of the speech delivered by the president…the players of the senior team, recent world champions, in support of Jennifer Hermoso, want to express their firm and resounding condemnation of conduct that has violated the dignity of women,” said a joint statement released by players’ union Futpro.
“In view of the statements made by the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, Jennifer Hermoso wants to flatly deny that she consented to the kiss that Luis Rubiales gave her in the World Cup final.
“After everything that happened during the Women’s World Cup medal ceremony, we want to state that all the players who sign this letter will not return to a call for the national team if the current leaders continue.”
On Thursday FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales, who also grabbed his crotch in celebration following the World Cup final despite being just metres away from Spain’s Queen Letizia and her teenage daughter in the stadium VIP area.
Rubiales apologised for his behaviour in the VIP area but insisted in his speech on Friday he had been the target of a “social assassination” and repeatedly and emphatically stated “I will not resign”, words that drew applause from the gathered delegates at an extraordinary general meeting of the Spanish federation.
That has infuriated many, not least Hermoso who after previously suggesting comments attributed to her by the RFEF were false, said in the statement: “I want to clarify that, as seen in the images, at no time did I consent to the kiss that he gave me.
“I do not tolerate my word being questioned, much less that they are invented words I haven’t said.”
Victor Francos, head of the state-run National Sports Council, said the government wants this case to be “the ‘Me Too’ of Spanish football” in reference to the movement seeking to highlight and prevent sexual violence towards women.
“Mr Rubiales said he was not resigning. We want to convey one thing with all the institutional respect that the president of the RFEF deserves,” he said.
“The government begins today the procedures so that Mr Rubiales has to give explanations before the Administrative Court of Sport (TAD) and, if the TAD is
willing, we will suspend Mr Rubiales in his functions.
“Today we will file a complaint with the TAD. The complaint will arrive this afternoon and we request that there be an extraordinary meeting of the court next Monday.
“We want this to be the ‘Me Too’ of Spanish football and that this means a change. I apologise to the players, because they didn’t deserve this week. Hopefully we can celebrate again when this storm passes.”
World players’ union FIFPRO said it had written to UEFA urging it to open disciplinary proceedings.
“Any lack of action by authorities in addressing the conduct of Mr Rubiales would send an entirely unacceptable and damaging message to the football industry and wider society,” said a statement.
European football’s governing body has yet to issue any comment on the Rubiales case.
The players, however, have escalated things themselves.
“From our union we want to emphasise that no woman should feel the need to respond to the forceful images that everyone has seen and of course, they should not be involved in non-consensual attitudes,” added their statement.
“The players of the Spanish soccer team, current world champions, expect forceful answers from the public powers so that actions such as those contained do not go unpunished.
“We want to end this statement by asking for real structural changes that help the national team to continue growing, in order to transfer this great success to later generations.
“It fills us with sadness that such an unacceptable event is managing to tarnish the greatest sporting success of Spanish women’s football.”