Spanish Soccer Chief Resigns Amid Sexual Assault Controversy After Historic Win

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Luis Rubiales, the beleaguered chief of the Spanish soccer federation, ceded to mounting pressure and stepped down from his position on Sunday. His resignation comes three weeks after a controversial incident occurred when Rubiales kissed a player on the lips, casting an unsavory shadow over Spain’s historic win at the Women’s World Cup.

Rubiales’ actions sparked outrage far beyond the confines of Spain and the sporting world. He had kissed Jenni Hermoso, after Spain clinched its first World Cup victory against England on August 20 in Sydney, Australia. Hermoso later stated that the kiss was without her consent.

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Rubiales, in a public statement, announced his resignation, acknowledging the mounting charges against him and his short-lived suspension by FIFA, which made his return to office, untenable.

Despite being temporarily sidelined by FIFA for his inappropriate behavior at the final ceremony, Rubiales exhibited defiance and hostility towards critics. Matters escalated further when Spanish authorities charged him with sexual assault and coercion related to the incident involving Hermoso. Up to this point, Rubiales maintained the kiss was mutual, a “moment of jubilation,” akin to something he might direct toward his own daughters.

However, Hermoso and her players’ union vehemently denied his claims. She reported being pressured by the federation, and her family to publicly back Rubiales. The act, critics argue, embodies sexism and the abuse of authority.

Endorsing Rubiales’ resignation, Victor Francos, Spain’s Secretary of State for Sport, said it was a widely anticipated move that resonates with the sentiment of the Spanish society.

Rubiales also resigned as UEFA vice president, with concerns the scandal might impact Spain’s bid to host the 2030 men’s World Cup alongside Portugal, Morocco, and potentially Ukraine.

The Spanish federation confirmed Rubiales’ resignation, stating that it would follow its statutes and call an election for a new president.

In an appearance on television, Rubiales expressed his intention to retreat from his duties to protect his personal dignity and his family.

Prior to his resignation, Rubiales was under significant criticism for his misconduct during the final, which involved a crude gesture, much to the shock of Spain’s Queen Letizia and her daughter, Princess Sofia. His self-justified act, tagging his critics as “false feminists,” triggered an immediate suspension by FIFA, and intensified proceedings from the Spanish government and Hermoso’s allegations of sexual assault.

The public outcry against Rubiales paralleled the ongoing strike for higher wages by Spain’s women’s league, sparking talk of a “Me Too” movement in Spanish soccer. In the face of potential criminal charges and potential imprisonment, Rubiales finally capitulated and resigned.

Despite his blemished tenure, Rubiales lamented the drastic campaign against him and feared its potential impact on Spanish soccer. He conceded to resigning to ensure stability and unity for the upcoming 2030 World Cup bid.

Rubiales’ term at the UEFA ruling committee can be replaced through elections held in Madrid next February, hosted by the Spanish federation at UFC member federation’s annual meeting.

Rubiales, a former player turned head of Spain’s main players union, had been leading the federation since 2018. Despite his controversial run, he managed to solidify internal support through savvy business deals and significant revenue generation.

Although Rubiales would notably open up the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia for US$40 million per annum, the move incited criticism from women’s and human rights groups for Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women and minorities.

This controversy detracted from Spain’s historic victory in women’s soccer, tainting Spain’s triumphs in soccer since Rubiales assumed office and led to his downfall.