Spanish regional bosses call on Rubiales to resign in kiss furore

football29 August 2023 10:15| © Reuters
Luis Rubiales © Getty Images

Regional representatives of the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) have demanded the immediate resignation of the body's chief Luis Rubiales - but stopped short of calling for a motion of no confidence - for kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips at the World Cup.

The Federation's move came as the situation has spiralled into a national row over women's rights, macho behaviour and sexual abuse with many acting ministers asking for Rubiales to leave.

Many of the federation representatives had applauded Rubiales when he announced on Friday he would not quit, but late on Monday asked him to step down and called for a restructuring of key positions in the federation "to allow for a new phase of management in Spanish football" with more gender equality.

"Following recent events and the unacceptable behaviour that has seriously damaged Spanish football's image, the (regional) presidents demand that Luis Rubiales immediately resign," the representatives said in a statement.

The about-turn at the federation followed the opening of a preliminary probe by the High Court prosecutor on whether Rubiales might have committed an act of sexual aggression and piled pressure on Rubiales.

He was suspended by Fifa from all soccer-related activities for three months on Saturday amid a furore over the incident at the presentation ceremony following Spain's Women's World Cup win in Sydney on August 20.

Gender issues are a prominent topic in Spain.

The outgoing Socialist-led government has presided over a raft of legal reforms around gender change, abortion and sex work. A loophole in its law around sexual consent, however, let rapists out of jail, resulting in a significant electoral loss by the far-left Podemos party, in the government coalition, in July's election.

Rubiales, 46, has refused to step down, saying the kiss - which took place in a live broadcast - was consensual.

His mother is holed up in a church in the family's hometown of Motril and has started a hunger strike in support of her son.

A few dozen residents of Motril on Monday gathered outside the church, shouting, clapping and holding up signs in support of Rubiales and his mother. "Stop hunt against Rubiales, enough!", read one of the signs.

Some residents said calls for Rubiales to step down were an "excessive" punishment.

"We are talking about a little kiss, he didn't kill anyone," Amparo Macias said.

Hermoso, her teammates and the Spanish government say the kiss was unwanted and demeaning.

Acting Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz demanded the dismissal of the head coaches of both the men's and women's national teams.