Rubiales Quits, but Women’s Soccer in Spain Is Still Troubled

After three weeks of protests and calls for his resignation, Spain’s soccer chief, Luis Rubiales, has quit, but the problems that surfaced in the wake of his forcible kiss of a player after the Women’s World Cup remain.

The player, Jennifer Hermoso, has filed a criminal complaint of secual assault against him. During the last week, accusations have emerged of chauvinistic treatment toward players, and Spanish league players have started a strike over pay.

While Beatriz Álvarez, the president of Spain’s fledgling women’s league, Liga F, welcomed Mr. Rubiales’s resignation which she said “should have come sooner,” she also lamented how it, “leaves us the challenge of reconstructing Spanish football after the enormous reputational damage that his behavior has caused.”

It is unclear if Mr. Rubiales’s resignation, which came on Sunday, will be enough to appease the national team, whose first game since their World Cup victory is less than two weeks away. The entire team and dozens of other players signed a statement last month refusing to play for their country “if the current leaders continue.” They have not said if they will take the field against Sweden on Sept. 22.

Mr. Rubiales’s resignation comes on the heels of the firing last week of the squad’s coach, Jorge Vilda, whom Mr. Rubiales loyally supported for years despite complaints of controlling behavior. Fifteen star players walked out in protest last year.

But the troubles of Spanish women’s soccer are not limited to the national squad. Bickering is also rampant in the professional clubs. A pay dispute between the players and their clubs disrupted the start of the season this weekend. Talks are taking place between the women’s league, on behalf of the clubs, and the unions, but if higher wage demands are not met, matches scheduled this coming weekend could be halted.

“The players are feeling pretty angry,” said Amanda Gutiérrez, the head of Futpro, one of the unions. “They want to play, they don’t want this war.”

At the heart of the dispute, which has gone on for months, is the current minimum salary for female players, — 16,000 euros, or about $17,000 — compared with 180,000 euros, or about $192,000, for their male counterparts, according to Spain’s chief players union, A.F.E.

Jennifer Hermoso in action on Sunday during her first match after the World Cup, in Hidalgo, Mexico.Credit…Luis Cortes/Reuters

The players are seeking a minimum salary of 23,000 euros for the upcoming season, with the possibility of an increase to 25,000 euros if the league generates more than 8 million euros in sponsor income.

The women’s league says it cannot afford to pay a minimum salary of more than $20,000 euros because of other expenses, including for licenses and referees. It is also required to give 20 percent of its sponsorship income to the national soccer federation, which uses the money to promote its nonprofessional categories and develop its soccer programs.

Ms.Álvarez, the president of the league, who represents the clubs, said she hoped that Mr. Rubiales’s resignation would herald “a profound internal restructuring,” and “institutional respect and collaboration” that would enable “the advancement and sustainability of women’s football.”

On Monday afternoon, the National Court issued a note telling reporters that Judge Francisco de Jorge had requested videos from Spanish state television that show the kiss “from all angles.”

Minutes after presenting his resignation on Sunday night, Mr. Rubiales posted a statement to X, formerly known as Twitter, saying he did nothing wrong, adding,“I have faith in the truth and I will do everything in my power to make it prevail.” If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.

A protest gainst Luis Rubiales in Madrid in August. Credit…Andrea Comas/Associated Press

Some commentators have described the recent events in Spanish football as a watershed moment in Spain’s #MeToo movement because they spotlight a divide between traditions of machismo and more recent progressivism that has put Spain in the European vanguard on issues of feminism and equality.

Marta Lois, a spokeswoman for the Sumar group,part of Spain’s coalition government, stressed the importance of continuing“to eradicate the structural chauvinism that affects the football institutions in Spain.” She said Mr. Rubiales “should have apologized to Jenni Hermoso,” and called his not doing so “regrettable.”

Though Mr. Rubiales wrote of a campaign to oust him, the president of Spain’s National Sports Council, Víctor Francos, said on Monday morning, “Everyone wanted his resignation.”

Other prominent Spanish politicians reacted on social media to the news of Mr. Rubiales’s resignation. The government’s second vice president, Yolanda Díaz, said on X: “The feminist country is advancing ever faster. The transformation and improvement of our lives is inevitable. We’re with you, Jenni, and with all women.”

Mar Hedo, the communications director for the Spanish public prosecutors office, said that while local prosecutors would look into most sexual assault cases, “when the presumed crime takes place abroad and both victim and presumed aggressor are Spanish,” jurisdiction falls to the National Court.

The soccer federation says it will hold elections for a new president, but federation sources said that might take a while. Current regulations permit elections to be held only during Olympic years; the next games are not due to start until summer 2024.

A change in the election schedule requires approval from the National Sports Council, which has said it would do so though it has not received a request.

“What the National Sports Council wants is for elections in the soccer federation to be held as soon as possible,” Mr. Francos, its chief, said on Spanish television Monday morning after urging reflection the night before, on a local radio show,“so that certain things that have happened don’t happen again.”

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