Luis Rubiales in Spanish court over Women’s World Cup kiss

Former president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales arrives at the high court in Madrid, Spain - September 15, 2023Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Luis Rubiales has denied allegations of sexual assault and coercion

By Guy Hedgecoe in Madrid & Paul Kirby in London

BBC News

Luis Rubiales has entered a Madrid court to answer a criminal complaint over kissing Spanish player Jenni Hermoso, days after resigning as head of Spain’s football federation.

He said nothing as he walked into the national court to face accusations of sexual assault and coercion.

Mr Rubiales, 46, insists he had the footballer’s consent as she celebrated Spain winning the Women’s World Cup.

The court will decide whether the case goes to trial.

Spanish state prosecutors have formally lodged a criminal complaint against the former president of the football federation (RFEF), which will be heard behind closed doors by Judge Francisco de Jorge.

Spain won the Women’s World Cup in Australia on 20 August, but the team’s victory has been overshadowed ever since by Mr Rubiales’s actions during the celebrations after the final whistle.

He has maintained that when he held her head in his hands and kissed her on the lips it was mutual and consensual. Mr Rubiales eventually resigned on Sunday as president of the federation, declaring: “I have faith in the truth and I will do everything in my power so that it prevails.”

Ms Hermoso, 33, says that she did not consent to the kiss. Prosecutors submitted her initial complaint of sexual assault and added one of coercion, arguing that he had put pressure on the Spain forward to come to his defence amid uproar in the days after the kiss.

Image source, Marc Atkins/Getty Images

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Jenni Hermoso said no-one should be a victim of such non-consensual behaviour

Spain’s left-wing government reformed laws on consent in the past two years after a notorious gang-rape case in 2016 that led to five men being cleared of rape.

Under the so-called “Only Yes is Yes” law, a non-consensual kiss can be considered an offence of sexual assault, so Mr Rubiales could face a fine or even a jail sentence if the case goes to trial and he is found guilty.

Five days after the World Cup victory, Jenni Hermoso issued a statement saying that no person in a work, sport or social setting should be a victim of such non-consensual conduct: “I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulsive-driven, sexist, out-of-place act, without any consent on my part.”

The judge will decide whether the case goes to trial after examining a series of videos from before, during and after the ceremony.

He has asked to see the moment of the kiss “from all angles”.

The judge has also asked for a video of the celebration in the dressing room and from the team bus as the team left the stadium in Sydney.

Mr Rubiales was initially suspended by world football’s governing body Fifa, before he eventually stood down as both head of the RFEF and vice-president of Uefa.

In a TV interview with Piers Morgan, he repeated his contention that the footballer had lifted him up at the time of the kiss, rather than the other way around. “We had the fleeting kiss, two-tenths of a second, but what was created from that is crazy,” he said.

The events in Sydney have rocked Spanish football for weeks. Earlier this month, women’s team coach Jorge Vida was fired and replaced by assistant coach Montse Tomé, the first woman to run the team.

Tomé is due to announce her first squad on Friday ahead of two UEFA Women’s Nations League matches against Sweden and Switzerland later this month.

However, 41 Spanish players have told the RFEF they are not available for selection. They have called for structural changes at the heart of the federation and are dissatisfied with the measures it has taken so far.

Media caption,

Luis Rubiales: Spanish federation president kisses Hermoso during ceremony

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