Former Spanish football leader Luis Rubiales (46) is scheduled to appear before a High Court judge on Friday in connection with a sexual assault complaint.
This complaint stems from an incident in which he allegedly kissed player Jenni Hermoso (33) on the lips without her consent. This incident has ignited a heated debate about sexism in Spanish sports and society.
The events of August 20th overshadowed the national women’s team’s World Cup victory in Sydney and sparked protests akin to the MeToo movement.
It encouraged other women to step forward with accounts of sexist mistreatment and assaults, sending shockwaves through Spain’s predominantly male-dominated football hierarchy.
Rubiales has consistently maintained that the kiss was mutual and consensual.
Despite resisting calls to resign as president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) for weeks, Rubiales, who was already suspended by FIFA, ultimately stepped down on September 10th.
However, he has not expressed remorse for his actions.
“I am a good person, that in a moment of maximum happiness, with consent, asking beforehand…In truth, there can be no other intention than the celebration and the joy itself,” he told British television interviewer Piers Morgan on Sunday.
He likened the celebratory atmosphere in Sydney to winning a lottery or seeing a war end, situations in which he said “people don’t ask permissions”.
Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz has called his actions “shameful” and said they showed that male chauvinism was still systemic in Spanish society.
On September 8th, prosecutor Marta Durantez Gil lodged a complaint with the High Court against Rubiales.
This action followed Hermoso’s statement to prosecutors, in which she alleged that Rubiales kissed her on the mouth without her consent while firmly holding her head with both hands during the medal ceremony.
The prosecutor also introduced the possibility of a coercion charge, as Hermoso claimed that she and her family felt pressured by Rubiales and his associates to publicly state that she “justified and approved what happened.”
Judge Francisco de Jorge has been assigned to conduct an inquiry as mandated by Spanish law before any formal charges can be brought.
He will determine whether the case should proceed to trial. If it does, Rubiales could potentially face a prison sentence ranging from one to four years.
De Jorge has issued orders for several media outlets, including state broadcaster TVE, to provide him with footage of the incident and subsequent videos. One such video depicts players celebrating on a bus with Rubiales, making what appeared to be lighthearted references to the kiss. The investigative process is expected to span several months.
Friday’s hearing is behind closed doors.
The legal case will also serve as a public test for the flagship “Solo si es si” (Only yes is yes) law of the leftist coalition government, which places consent at the core of sexual relations.
A substantial number of players, sports organisations, and politicians have thrown their support behind Hermoso in a campaign centred around the hashtag #SeAcabó (It’s Over) on social media. This reflects the nation’s growing intolerance towards abuse.
In a significant show of solidarity, Spain’s top 87 female players, including the 23 world champions, have opted not to represent the national team until there are changes in the management and approach of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).
As a response to this pressure, the RFEF has dismissed women’s team coach Jorge Vilda (42) and appointed his assistant Montse Tome (41) as the first woman to lead the team.
Left-back Olga Carmona (23) stated this week that the players have yet to determine if these changes are sufficient to prompt their return to the team.