On Monday, it was revealed that Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales had resigned from his role following the controversy over him kissing Spanish player Jennifer Hermoso.
What actually happened?
During the presentation ceremony at the Women’s World Cup final, as the Spanish players walked across the podium to collect their medals, Rubiales was seen hugging and kissing most players on the cheek. However, he kissed Jenni Hermoso on the lips, which Hermoso later said wasn’t consensual and that she didn’t like it at all.
Rubiales came under heavy fire quickly, his behaviour was deemed as “unacceptable” by Spain’s acting culture and sports minister Miquel Iceta, so Rubiales issued a video statement apologising for his actions. But the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez branded his conduct “unacceptable” and found his apology to be “not sufficient”, this therefore led to FIFA opening proceedings against Rubiales. Rubiales did speak out in a press conference and said that the kiss was ‘fully consensual’ and insisted he would not resign from his post as Spanish FA president.
A few days after Rubiales’ controversial press conference, Hermoso posted a message on her instagram explaining her side of the story, within this message she said “his kiss was never consensual, I want to reiterate as I did before that I did not like this incident.” Many players from the women’s football world and many male professionals stood in solidarity with Hermoso, in fact every member of Spain's World Cup winning team as well as many more Spanish internationals said they would not play anymore matches for their country until Rubiales was removed from his job.
Eventually on August 26, FIFA did ban Rubiales from “all football-related activities at national and international level” for an initial period of 90 days. Then shortly after this all members of the Spanish coaching staff/squad resigned too with the exception of manager Jorge Vilda.
Then on September 5, Jorge Vilda was sacked as the Spanish Women’s team manager (just 16 days after winning the World Cup). And just a day later Hermoso formally submitted a complaint about Rubiales to Spain’s national prosecutor’s office.
And on September 10, women’s football had a small victory as after three weeks of controversy and sheer determination from Jenni Hermoso, Rubiales announced in an interview with Piers Morgan that he would be resigning from his job role, he said “of course I cannot continue my work.” But not because of Hermoso and the whole footballing world going against him, he resigned due to his family talking to him.
Rubiales added: “My father, my daughters, I spoke with them…and some friends very close to me, and they say to me 'Luis, now you have to focus on your dignity and to continue your life.'
"Because if you know, you are going to damage people you love, and the sport you love…in this situation now, (it is) the thing I have to do."
How is it a victory for women’s football?
Rubiales resigning is a small but crucial victory for women’s football in so many ways. Firstly, we’ve seen a president who was adamant he would not resign because he thought he was the victim, be driven out of his position thanks to sheer determination, courage, resilience and bravery from Jenni Hermoso to publicly speak out against him.
Secondly, we saw the whole women’s football community unite together as well as many male professionals to show their support for Hermoso to help her be listened to, respected and supported by people of a higher power in Spain.
Finally, I think it’s a victory for women’s football as a whole purely because it shows that these female players aren’t scared to speak out anymore compared to in the past, they aren’t scared to take drastic action against something they don’t agree with, like we’ve seen with the Spanish players refusing to play for their country again until Rubiales resigned. And of course it shows that women’s footballers do matter, women’s football is on the map now and the players are idolised by so many people worldwide so the fact they have the confidence and determination to fight and speak out against these people in higher positions is remarkable to see and I’m sure we will see more players speak up in the future.
What next for Spanish football and for Rubiales?
Despite Rubiales and manager Jorge Vilda finally resigning, the damage to Spanish football, even Spanish sport as a whole, has been huge. The Spanish players themselves are still fighting for better treatment from the Spanish Football Federation, but hopefully they can finally celebrate their World Cup triumph.
As for Rubiales well he has been summoned to court by Spanish National Court judge Francisco de Jorge, he is set to appear in court this Friday (September 15), where he will face accusations of sexual assault and coercion of Jenni Hermoso and her family. If Rubiales is found guilty of the charges he could face a huge fine or even a prison sentence of around 1-4 years.