Judge Rules on Soccer Honcho's 'Unconsented' Kiss

Luis Rubiales, Spain's former soccer chief, must head to trial, per Thursday ruling
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 25, 2024 5:10 PM CST
Spain's Ex-Soccer Chief to See Trial for Unwanted Kiss
Spanish soccer player Jenni Hermoso, center, arrives at Spain's National Court in Madrid on Jan. 2. The Spanish player who was kissed on the lips by Luis Rubiales after the Women's World Cup final appeared in court to testify in the sexual assault case against the former official.   (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

After sullying his nation's Women's World Cup victory, former Spanish soccer chief Luis Rubiales will face trial for kissing forward Jenni Hermoso without her consent at the final. Judge Francisco de Jorge ruled on Thursday that Rubiales' kiss was "unconsented and carried out unilaterally and in a surprising fashion." State prosecutors accused Rubiales of sexual assault and of allegedly trying to coerce Hermoso to publicly support him in the public backlash against him, per the AP. Despite initially claiming he was the victim of a campaign led by "false feminists," Rubiales eventually resigned from his post for his behavior in August during the World Cup final awards ceremony in Sydney. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The judge also ruled that, along with Rubiales, former Spain coach Jorge Vilda; Albert Luque, the sports director for the Spanish men's team; and Ruben Rivera, the federation's former head of marketing, should be tried for allegedly pressuring Hermoso to defend Rubiales, a step she refused to take. Hermoso testified before the investigative judge this month. The 33-year-old forward, Spain's all-time leading scorer who now plays in the Mexican league, has been widely supported in the country. The kiss scandal has many hoping it will spur a reckoning with sexism in Spanish sports. Based on a sexual consent law passed in 2022, Rubiales could face a fine or a prison sentence of one to four years if found guilty, according to the prosecutors' office in Madrid. The new law eliminates the difference between "sexual harassment" and "sexual assault," sanctioning any unconsented sexual act.

The 46-year-old Rubiales, who also grabbed his crotch in a lewd victory gesture near Spain's Queen Letizia and Princess Sofia during celebrations of Spain's victory, immediately became a national embarrassment. Hermoso and her teammates refused to keep playing as long as he was in charge and returned to the team only weeks later, when the government mediated an agreement by the federation interim president to overhaul its protocols and give more support to its women's side. That included the elimination of the term "women's" from the official team name.

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The judge found sufficient evidence to also believe Rubiales unsuccessfully pressured Hermoso to appear in a video he produced and published while public outroar grew against him. The judge said there was also reason to believe Vilda likewise pressured Hermoso's brother. Luque and marketing head Rivera were also involved in the alleged attempt to coerce her support of her disgraced boss, according to the judge. FIFA banned Rubiales for three years, until after the men's 2026 World Cup. His ban will expire before the next women's tournament in 2027. Spain's sports authority also ruled him unfit to hold a post in sports management for three years. His trial date has yet to be determined.

(More Luis Rubiales stories.)

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