BARCELONA, Spain — The president of the Spanish football federation faces an emergency meeting of its general assembly on Friday amid media reports that he will hand in his resignation following an uproar for kissing a Women’s World Cup champion.
Luis Rubiales is expected to stand before representatives of Spain’s regional federations, clubs, players, coaches and referees in Madrid at noon local time, and local media say he is stepping down.
The federation has refused to comment on repeated requests from The Associated Press for confirmation of Rubiales’ decision to go that was reported late Thursday.
Rubiales, 46, is under immense pressure to leave his post since he grabbed player Jenni Hermoso and kissed her on the lips without her consent during the awards ceremony following Spain’s 1-0 victory over England on Sunday in Sydney.
FIFA, football’s global governing body and organizer of the Women’s World Cup, opened a disciplinary case against him on Thursday. Its disciplinary committee was tasked with weighing whether Rubiales violated its code relating to “the basic rules of decent conduct” and “behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute.”
That move by FIFA came after Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that Rubiales’ attempt to apologize, which came after he initially insulted his critics, was unconvincing and that “he must continue taking further steps” to be held accountable.
Spain’s Higher Council of Sports, the nation’s governing sports body, pledged it would act quickly to consider various formal complaints filed against Rubiales to see if he had broken Spain’s sports law or the federation’s own code of conduct that sanction sexist acts. If so, Rubiales would face being declared unfit to hold his office by Spain’s Administrative Court for Sports.
As if the forced kiss was not enough, Rubiales had shortly before grabbed his crotch in a lewd victory gesture from the section of dignitaries with Spain’s Queen Letizia and the 16-year-old Princess Infanta Sofía nearby.
The combination of the gesture and the unsolicited kiss has made Rubiales a national embarrassment after his conduct was broadcast to a global audience, marring the enormous accomplishment of the women who played for Spain.
Hermoso, a 33-year-old forward and key contributor to Spain’s title, said on a social media stream “I did not like it, but what could I do?” about the kiss during a locker-room celebration immediately after the incident.
The first attempt to respond to the scandal was a statement it released in the name of Hermoso in which she downplayed the incident. Later, a local media report by sports website Relevo.com said that the federation had coerced her into making the statement. The federation has denied this to The AP.
On Wednesday, Hermoso issued a statement through her players’ union saying it would speak on her behalf. The union said it would do all it could to ensure that the kiss does “not go unpunished.”
Rubiales has received no public support from any major sports figure and united political parties from both the left and right are calling for him to resign.