Regional leaders of Spain’s football association have told its president Luis Rubiales that he should resign with immediate effect amid a row over his conduct at the Women’s World Cup.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) made the demand late on Monday after holding an emergency meeting to discuss the fate of Mr Rubiales, who has already been served with a 90-day suspension from international footballing body Fifa.
Mr Rubiales was widely expected to resign last week after Jenni Hermoso, part of the World Cup-winning squad, said a kiss she received from the football boss was non-consensual and unwanted – but he has refused to do so and decried the claims as a “witch hunt”.
Monday saw a number of extraordinary developments, with Mr Rubiales’ mother Ángeles Béjar locking herself inside a church and claiming she was embarking on a hunger strike as she demanded a solution to the “inhumane and bloody hunt that they are doing with my son”.
At the same time, the leadership within RFEF reportedly urged European football body Uefa to suspend its membership – a step that would shut Spanish teams out of Uefa competitions – citing political interventions from the Spanish government calling for Mr Rubiales to quit.
But in a fresh statement on Monday evening posted on the RFEF website, that stance had been thrown in reverse – with the body saying that it had asked acting president Pedro Rocha to “immediately withdraw” the communications sent “on behalf of the Federation with Fifa and Uefa”.
The statement from the Commission of Presidents of Regional and Territorial Federations said: “After the latest events and the unacceptable behaviours that have seriously damaged the image of Spanish football, [we] request that Mr Luis Rubiales immediately present his resignation as president of the RFEF.”
The statement adds: “We will urge the corresponding bodies to carry out a deep and imminent organic restructuring in strategic positions of the Federation to give way to a new stage of management in Spanish football.”
It also said that the Presidents’ Commission “has given its unanimous support” to Mr Rocha “so that he may lead a new stage where dialogue and reconciliation with all football institutions is the line to follow.”
Earlier on Monday, prosecutors confirmed they had opened an investigation into an “alleged sex abuse crime” against Mr Rubiales “as a result of the public outcry” – though Ms Hermoso is not thought to have made a criminal complaint.
The prosecutor’s office said it will contact Ms Hermoso to tell her that as the victim of the alleged crime, she has the right to formally report Mr Rubiales, a key legal step so that the case can advance.
The Spanish government has announced started legal proceedings seeking to suspend Mr Rubiales, sending a file, consisting of complaints by several organisations including Spain’s women’s football league, to its Sport Administrative Court (TAD) alleging two “very serious breaches”: abuse of authority and “public acts that violate sporting dignity or decorum”.
The TAD held an extraordinary meeting on Monday but requested more documents before deciding whether to open a case.