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Spanish Women’s World Cup players demand more heads roll after Luis Rubiales exit

MADRID – The crisis within Spanish football deepened on Friday as its Women’s World Cup winners demanded for more heads to roll at its scandal-hit RFEF federation, while disgraced ex-boss appeared in court on sexual assault charges.

Just hours after Luis Rubiales was quizzed by a judge for forcibly kissing midfielder Jennifer Hermoso following the title win on Aug 20, all but two of Spain’s 23 World Cup players said they would not don the national shirt again without deeper changes within the RFEF, demanding the current interim head also resign.

The communication from them came as the squad’s new coach Montse Tome was to announce the line-up for two upcoming Uefa Women’s Nations League matches against Sweden and Switzerland, which was promptly postponed.

“The changes put in place are not enough for the players to feel safe,” said a statement by 39 players, including 21 World Cup winners.

Demanding “fundamental changes to the RFEF’s leadership”, they called for the resignation of the interim president Pedro Rocha, who took over when Fifa suspended Rubiales on Aug 26.

“(Our) changes specified to the RFEF are based on zero tolerance for people who in their jobs inside the RFEF have incited, hidden or applauded attitudes that go against women’s dignity,” the statement added.

However, the federation insisted that Rocha would “lead the transition process within the RFEF until the next election”, insisting any changes would be made “gradually”.

“This institution is more important than individuals and it is crucial it remains strong. We’ll work tirelessly to create stability first in order to progress later,” Rocha said in his statement.

Despite several recent changes, the RFEF is still controlled by Rubiales appointees, and the players are demanding structural changes “within the office of the president and the secretary general” which included Rocha.

A restructuring of the communications and marketing department and the so-called integrity unit was also mentioned.

The bombshell came after days of optimism within the RFEF that the players would come round after it sacked controversial coach Jorge Vilda, appointed Tome in his place and pledged further changes, not to mention Rubiales’ long-awaited resignation last Sunday.

On Aug 25, 81 Spain players, including the 23 world champions, had started a mass strike saying they would not play for the national team without significant changes at the head of the federation.

Earlier on Friday, Rubiales appeared in court where he was quizzed about the kiss.

At the end of the closed-door hearing, in which he repeated his claim that his action was consensual, the judge ordered him not to come within 200m of Hermoso and barred him from any contact with her.

In an interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan earlier, the 46-year-old Rubiales had described the kiss as “a spontaneous act, a mutual act, an act that both consented to, which was… 100 per cent non-sexual”.

Hermoso has insisted it was not, describing it as “an impulsive, macho act, out of place and with no type of consent”.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Hermoso’s lawyer Carla Vall said they were “very satisfied” with the hearing, adding: “Everyone can see there was no consent whatsoever and that is what we will demonstrate in court.”

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The player herself will also testify before the judge at some stage, who will then have to decide whether or not to push ahead with the prosecution.

The complaint against Rubiales, which was filed by the public prosecutors’ office, cites alleged offences of sexual assault and coercion.

Under a recent reform of the Spanish penal code, a non-consensual kiss can be considered sexual assault, a category which groups all types of sexual violence.

If found guilty, Rubiales could face anything from a fine to four years in prison.

In their complaint, prosecutors explained the offence of coercion, which was related to Hermoso’s statement saying that she “and those close to her had suffered constant ongoing pressure by Luis Rubiales and his professional entourage to justify and condone” his actions.

At the hearing, Rubiales also denied coercion. AFP, REUTERS

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