WORLD NEWS: After Rubiales’ Restraining Order, Spain’s Women’s Team Makes Demands
Shortly before the roster was due to be announced for the Spanish women’s first international soccer match since their World Cup victory, the Royal Spanish Football Association postponed the event until further notice.
It became clear why five minutes later, when Spain’s star players made public a list of demands for a top-to-bottom reorganization of the federation, Spain’s soccer governing body.
The events came the same day as a restraining order was granted against Luis Rubiales, the former head of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, the country’s governing body. Mr. Rubiales, who appeared in court Friday on charges of sexual assault against a star forward, Jennifer Hermoso, whom he forcibly kissed after the team won the World Cup in August, must stay 200 meters, or more than 650 feet, away from the player while the investigation continues.
“We believe that it is time to fight to show that there is no place for these situations and practices in our football or our society, and that the structure needs to be changed,” the players’ statement said.
The entire Spanish team signed the statement, which called for changes “in the leadership positions of the Royal Spanish Football Federation.” According to the statement, their demands are based on “zero tolerance” toward members of the federation who have “had, incited, hidden or applauded attitudes against the dignity of women.”
The team had published an earlier list of demands in August. In that statement the players threatened not to play for Spain unless their demands were met. It was unclear what would happen if the new demands were not met.
The high-stakes standoff between Spain’s star players and the national soccer federation comes as the tumult continues over that postgame kiss, which he said was consensual and she said was absolutely not. The kiss also caused widespread indignation and brought to light claims of deeply rooted discrimination and sexism in the Spanish game.
Mr. Rubiales resigned on Sunday after weeks of agitation for him to do so. Jorge Vilda, the coach of the national team, was fired last week. He had been accused last year of controlling and sexist behavior by team members. Mr. Vilda has been replaced by Montse Tomé, a player and coach and the first woman to hold the top job in Spain. She is set to make her coaching debut next week in Sweden.
Over the last few weeks, complaints of sexual assault and coercion have been filed against Mr. Rubiales by Ms. Hermoso, accusations have emerged of chauvinistic treatment by staff toward players and a strike has been staged by league players over low pay.
The federation has taken measures to pacify its star players, who openly demanded changes in management in a statement published by their union on Aug. 25, just days after their World Cup victory against England at a game played in Sydney, Australia.
Though Mr. Rubiales resigned, he remains defiant. In his court appearance on Friday, he denied any wrongdoing, according to a statement from public prosecutors.
Since the World Cup win, women’s league players have also gained ground and called off their strike. On Thursday morning, after days of “tough” talks, according to league boss Beatriz Álvarez, an agreement was reached with players to raise minimum pay to 21,000 euros, or about $22,400, from 16,000 euros.
Despite the raise, female players will still make far less than male players in Spain’s top division. According to A.F.E., the main soccer union in Spain, the minimum salary for first-division male players is 180,000 euros, or $192,000.
The national team said it was not persuaded enough had changed, saying the federation still had work to do.
Their statement refers to the kiss and the standing ovation given to Mr. Rubiales by members of the federation when he refused to resign, and says that members of the team have attended several meetings with the soccer association, expressing “very clearly” the changes the players believe are necessary “in order to advance and become a structure that does not tolerate or form part of such degrading acts.”
On Friday night, the soccer federation posted a statement on its website, apparently in response to the demands published earlier by the women’s team, and reinforcing “its commitment to the world champions, for whom it feels enormous pride.”
Describing the recent turn of events as “a particularly atypical scenario,” the interim president, Pedro Rocha, says, “a lot is at stake,” and, “to guarantee the future of Spanish football, it is essential to undertake transformations progressively and recover the dignity and credibility lost after the events of the World Cup.”
Both the players and the federation have a lot to lose.
If the Spanish team does not show up for the first match of the UEFA Nations League in Sweden next week, all hopes of competing in the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 will be dashed.
The sports commentator Guillem Balagué explained that Spain will blow its chance of an Olympic ticket if the players boycott the match. Only “the two finalists of the Nations League will, together with the French squad, be in Paris 2024,” Mr. Balagué said.