'#MeToo of Spanish football': Spanish attempts to force out Luis Rubiales grow

A defiant Luis Rubiales has doubled down on the moment he "embraced" Jenni Hermoso - but Spanish players are refusing to play over the non-consensual kiss

The acting Spanish government is attempting to force through the suspension of football federation president, Luis Rubiales, for kissing World Cup star Jenni Hermoso on the lips.

On Friday, Hermoso accused the Spanish Football Federation of a “manipulative, hostile and controlling culture” as the World Cup-winning squad refused to play while Rubiales remains in post.

A total of 81 players signed a letter stating they will not accept national team call-ups while Rubiales refuses to resign after kissing Hermoso – who has stressed she did not consent – following the country’s Women’s World Cup final win over England.

The Spanish government is attempting to take Rubiales to tribunal, with an official claiming the incident could be the ''#MeToo of Spanish football'.

He claimed it was “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual” but Hermoso, who previously suggested comments playing down the incident attributed to her by the federation were false, has hit back with an attack on the organisation as a whole.

Luis Rubiales, on the far right, is seen embracing members of the Spanish side after their World Cup Win. Credit: ITV

“I have to state that I have been under continuous pressure to come up with a statement that could justify the act of Mr. Luis Rubiales,” she said in a statement on Twitter.

The Lionesses put out a statement on Friday night, telling the Spanish team: "We all stand with you."

"Unacceptable actions allowed to happen by a sexist and patriarchal organisation. Abuse is abuse and we have all seen the truth.

"The behaviour of those who think they are invincible must not be tolerated and people shouldn't need convincing to take action against any form of harassment."

But despite the widespread outrage and calls for his resignation over the unsolicited kiss and other behaviour at the World Cup, Mr Rubiales defiantly vowed not to step down.

“I won’t resign,” Mr Rubiales declared four times in quick succession at an emergency general assembly of the federation on Friday, and claimed he was a victim of a witch hunt by “false feminists.”

In response, Spain's Higher Sports Council (CSD) - an autonomous government agency - announced it will seek the power from the Administrative Court for Sports to take Rubiales to tribunal to suspend him over the "very serious offence".

If the court agrees to hear the case, the council will suspend Mr Rubiales temporarily pending the court's ruling, said secretary of state for sport Víctor Francos.

"We're prepared for this to become the #MeToo of Spanish football," said Mr Francos.

If found guilty by the court for committing sexist acts, Rubiales could be ruled unfit to hold office. Mr Francos said he would ask the court to move its regular Thursday meeting up to Monday.

“The speech by Mr Rubiales before the general assembly of the Spanish football federation is absolutely incompatible with representing Spanish sports and with the values of an advanced society like Spain’s,” the Higher Council for Sports said in a statement.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Spanish Women's Football League said: "For the respect for the principles of sport. For the respect of women's football. For the respect of women and the men who fight alongside them. For the respect of football.

"Enough is enough! This is the moment to change this forever."

Mr Rubiales, 46, was also chastised for grabbing his crotch in celebration in the stadium's VIP area close to Spain’s Queen Letizia and the 16-year-old Princess Sofía, after Spain’s 1-0 victory over England on Sunday.

The action is said to have marred the title celebrations in front of a global audience, and criticism has steadily mounted. Spain’s acting prime minister, players unions, players for Spain’s women’s team, and some players on men’s teams have said he must go.

Several Spanish news media outlets reported on Thursday that Mr Rubiales would step down. Instead, he remained defiant Friday, claiming before the federation's assembly that the kiss was “mutual and with the consent” of Hermoso and that he is the victim of a witch hunt by “false feminists.”

He was applauded by the overwhelming male assembly.

“The kiss was the same I could give one of my daughters,” Rubiales said, claiming he asked Hermoso for "a little kiss" and she "said yes".

Hermoso had said in a video streamed on social media after the kiss: “I didn’t like it, but what can I do?”

Later, her players' union issued a statement on her behalf saying that it would defend her interests and ensure that the act “does not go unpunished.”

Several big-name players from Spain's men's sides have rebuked Rubiales' refusal to quit, with one star saying he will not play for his national side until the boss is gone.

Real Betis striker Borja Iglesias said: "I have made the decision not to return to the National Team until things change and this type of act does not go unpunished."

Mr Rubiales said he would defend his honour in court against politicians, including two ministers, who called his kiss an act of sexual violence.

One of them was acting Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz, who urged the government to take “urgent measures.”

"Impunity for macho actions is over,” Ms Díaz said. “Rubiales cannot continue in office.”

Spain's Alexia Putellas, Jennifer Hermoso and Irene Paredes ,from left, celebrate their World Cup win Credit: AP

Alexia Putellas, Hermoso’s teammate and a two-time Ballon d’Or winner as the best player in the world, posted a message of support on X, saying: “This is unacceptable. I'm with you, my teammate, Jenni Hermoso.”

Aitana Bonmatí, the Spain midfielder named the best player of the Women’s World Cup, said on X: “There are limits that you cannot cross and we cannot tolerate this. We are with our teammate.”

The president of Spain’s women’s league, Beatriz Álvarez, told Spanish state broadcaster RTVE that she was not surprised because Mr Rubiales’ “ego is above his dignity.”

“What surprises and scandalizes me are his words,” Ms Álvarez said. “Every time he speaks he shows what kind of person he really is.”

It comes after FIFA opened a disciplinary case against Mr Rubiales on Thursday and its disciplinary committee will decide whether he violated its code relating to “the basic rules of decent conduct”, or behaved "in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute.”

Disciplinary judges can impose sanctions on individuals ranging from warnings and fines to suspensions from the sport. FIFA gave no timetable for the ruling.

The investigation came after Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said earlier this week that Mr Rubiales’ attempt to apologise - after he first insulted his critics - was unconvincing and that “he must continue taking further steps.”

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