Luis Rubiales’ future as president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) could go some way to being decided on Friday, as the incident with Jenni Hermoso could yet see him banned from sport for two to 15 years. The 46-year-old is being described as “cornered” by those with knowledge of the situation, as scores of public criticisms have led to three formal complaints over whether his behaviour constituted an infraction of Spain’s sports law, which sanctions sexist acts.
That comes amid increasing political pressure that is now affecting the country’s 2030 World Cup bid. It is understood that Rubiales is not yet considering resigning, though Fifa have also opened their own disciplinary proceedings against him.
The controversial official has called an emergency meeting of the football federation’s general assembly on Friday, although it is expected to reject any resignation offer if there was one and support him. Should it be the case that Rubiales stays in the job after that, it is likely the case will be taken to a higher level, in a chain of events that could see the former Hamilton Academical defender declared unfit for office and ousted from sport. The RFEF has simultaneously launched an international investigation into whether Rubiales breached their protocol against sexism, which has “forced kissing” as a punishable act.
Victor Francos – Spain’s secretary of sport and president of the country’s sports council (CSD) – has asked the federation to deliver the results of its own investigation by Monday and said his council will take action if the RFEF does not. The council, which is currently studying three complaints, can then raise the case to Spain’s Administrative Court for Sports (TAD).
One of them comes from Miguel Galan, president of the Cenafe coaching school, whose legal department and government prosecutors are also weighing taking the case to the TAD. The court will assess the case against Article 104 of Spain’s Sports Law, which pertains to “very serious public acts that violate dignity and decorum in sports, as well as abuses of authority”. If the TAD decides that has been violated, Rubiales could be banned for between two and 15 years. Should it get to the point where Rubiales is charged by the TAD, meanwhile, Francos has the authority to convene the CSD's board of directors to vote on suspending the federation president while deliberations take place.
A further dimension to the story is that it is now being seen as potentially influencing Spain’s World Cup bid for 2030, which Rubiales has been central to, such is the global publicity.
Prime minister Pedro Sanchez has urged the official to “continue taking steps” towards accountability, which is being interpreted in some quarters as calls to resign, given how active his government has been on sexism. Sanchez’s second deputy prime minister, Yolanda Diaz, has meanwhile called for the application of sports law and federal protocols against sexist acts.
“Sports federations are private entities, they operate with absolute autonomy,” Francos told radio station Cadena Ser. “In a case like this, we can’t remove the president of the football federation even if we wanted to.”
“I imagine that what the responsible people will do is talk to the two parties involved and issue a report,” Francos added.
“I have personally told the federation this report has to be transparent and urgent, because, if it is not, obviously we are obliged to take the corresponding additional measures.”
Among the official complainants were Spain’s women’s league, Liga F, who also called for him to resign: “The Professional Women’s Football League has lodged a complaint with the president of the CSD after the very serious actions and behaviour of the president of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales, at the final of the Women’s World Cup, and is calling for his dismissal.”
Sports website Relevo meanwhile reported that Rubiales asked for Hermoso to appear on the video in which he apologised for kissing her, but the player refused.
It also stated that people travelling with the Spanish squad back to Madrid saw coach Jorge Vilda trying to convince Hermoso’s family for her to appear in the video. Had Hermoso decided to press charges, Rubiales could have also faced a criminal prosecution. Francos similarly defended the player.
“[Hermoso] can decide to speak out or not, and whatever she does she will be doing the right thing, because above all we cannot put the responsibility for this on her.”
“The gesture of grabbing his testicles in the tribune is a gesture that no one can defend,” Francos added. “Things have happened that should not have happened. As president of the Higher Council for Sports, I can’t deny that this generates a bad image.”
Rubiales has previously seen off controversies over moving Spain's Supercopa to Saudi Arabia in a deal that also involved Gerard Pique’s management company, as well as unethical recording of government ministers. This is widely seen as the greatest threat to his presidency, though.
Fifa’s statement read: “The Fifa Disciplinary Committee informed Luis Rubiales, President of the Spanish Football Association, today that it is opening disciplinary proceedings against him based on the events that occurred during the final of the Women’s World Cup on 20â¯August 2023.
“The events may constitute violations of article 13 paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Fifa Disciplinary Code. The Fifa Disciplinary Committee will only provide further information on these disciplinary proceedings once it has issued a final decision on the matter.”
The FA and Uefa have meanwhile been contacted for comment.