Spanish prosecutors accuse football chief Luis Rubiales of sexual assaulttext_fields
Spanish football's top executive, Luis Rubiales, is facing allegations of sexual assault and coercion after he forcibly kissed player Jenni Hermoso during a medal ceremony following Spain's Women's World Cup victory.
The public prosecutors have officially filed a lawsuit against Rubiales, calling for his questioning as an accused party, while Hermoso is designated as the victim. A judge from the National Court must now determine whether to proceed with the case.
The controversy began after Jenni Hermoso, a 33-year-old professional footballer playing for Mexican club Pachuca, filed a complaint against Rubiales earlier this week. Her complaint centres on an incident that took place on August 20 during a medal ceremony in Sydney, where Rubiales kissed her on the lips without her consent.
Spanish law defines sexual assault as encompassing a range of actions from online abuse and unwanted touching to rape, each carrying varying penalties. Forcibly kissing someone without their consent can result in a punishment that ranges from a fine to up to four years in prison.
In response to the allegations, Hermoso expressed how the unwanted kiss left her feeling "vulnerable and like the victim of an assault." She posted a statement on social media characterising the incident as "an impulsive, macho act, out of place and with no type of consent on my part." She also accused Rubiales of pressuring her to publicly defend him immediately following the incident, a matter that prosecutors are considering as a potential case of coercion.
Rubiales, who is the president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF), has consistently maintained that the kiss was consensual. FIFA provisionally suspended him for 90 days after he refused to resign from his post.
In solidarity with Hermoso and condemning Rubiales' actions, 81 female players initiated a strike. They demanded leadership changes within the RFEF, and their protest was prompted by Rubiales' strong defence of his actions during a fiery speech in which he criticised "false feminism."
This dispute has led to a reshuffling of leadership in the women's football arena, with the controversial women's coach, Jorge Vilda, being dismissed this week. Montserrat Tome, Vilda's former assistant, has taken the reins, making her the first woman to lead the team.
Spain's top sports court, the Spanish Sports Disciplinary Tribunal (TAD), has also decided to investigate Rubiales following a complaint lodged by the government.
Despite the suspension and investigations, Rubiales has maintained that he will continue to defend himself to prove that the kiss with Hermoso was "a mutual and consensual act" filled with "overflowing jubilation on both sides."
On Tuesday, the RFEF issued an apology for Rubiales' "totally unacceptable behaviour" and announced the firing of Jorge Vilda as coach in the wake of the scandal. The world champions' next matches are in Nations League qualifying, where they will face Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26, respectively.