Spanish football chief Rubiales under pressure to resign after World Cup final antics

Prime minister among those calling for action against federation's president

President of the Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales has faced a huge backlash. Reuters
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The Spanish government has cranked up the pressure on under-fire Luis Rubiales after his "unacceptable" behaviour in the aftermath of Sunday's Women's World Cup final.

Rubiales, the president of the Spanish football federation, has apologised for kissing midfielder Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the trophy presentation, while he was also pictured grabbing his crotch in celebration of the 1-0 win over England at Stadium Australia.

Rubiales initially defended his position before backing down and admitting he was “completely wrong”. That has done little to assuage his critics, however, with Spain's prime minister Pedro Sanchez particularly scathing in his assessment of the 46-year-old.

The federation has called an emergency meeting for Friday and opened an internal investigation.

But Victor Francos, Spain's secretary of sport and president of the country's sports council, the CSD, said they would take action if the federation did not.

"I imagine that what the responsible people will do is talk to the two parties involved and issue a report," Francos told radio station Cadena Ser.

"I have personally told the federation this report has to be transparent and urgent because, if it is not, we are obliged to take the corresponding additional measures."

Prime minister Sanchez had earlier said the incident had highlighted "that in our country [there is a] long way to go in terms of equality and respect between women and men".

That was a view shared by many in Spain and beyond with several of the country's clubs speaking out on the matter.

"What Rubiales has to do is resign, his behaviour has been deplorable," said Getafe's president Angel Torres on Wednesday.

American forward Megan Rapinoe, perhaps the female game's highest-profile player, described the incident as "physical assault".

"What kind of upside-down world are we in? On the biggest stage, where you should be celebrating, Jenni has to be physically assaulted by this guy," said Rapinoe.

She described Rubiales' behaviour at the final as portraying "a deep level of misogyny and sexism".

Rubiales had claimed the kiss happened "in a spontaneous way" and "without bad intention" but said it "seems like it has caused a commotion".

Hermoso initially said on social media she “didn’t like it” but in a statement later released by the federation on her behalf she also called it "spontaneous".

World governing body Fifa has not commented, nor has Uefa, for whom Rubiales is an executive committee member and a vice-president.

World players’ union Fifpro described the incident as “deeply lamentable”, adding: “Uninitiated and uninvited physical gestures towards players are not appropriate or acceptable in any context."

Updated: August 23, 2023, 2:41 PM