Who is Luis Rubiales? The Spanish FA chief who resigned over controversial kiss

Luis Rubiales congratulates Salma Paralluelo  at the World Cup final (Isabel Infantes / PA)
Luis Rubiales congratulates Salma Paralluelo at the World Cup final (Isabel Infantes / PA)

Luis Rubiales is one of the biggest names in sport at the moment, but not for positive reasons.

The President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation refused to resign last week despite sparking backlash over kissing Spanish athlete Jenni Hermoso on the lips without her consent, but has now done a complete u-turn and quit his post.

He announced his resignation as president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) after he was criticised for the kiss after the Women’s World Cup final.

He said he could not “continue my work” during an interview on TV show Piers Morgan Uncensored.

Rubiales kissed the midfielder on the lips during the trophy presentation following Spain’s victory over England, but Hermoso said the kiss was not consensual.

Fifa initially suspended Rubiales pending an investigation into his behaviour, and Hermoso submitted a complaint to the national prosecutor’s office, which is now with Spain’s high court.

In a statement on his unverified X account on Sunday evening, Rubiales said he had informed Pedro Rocha, who has been acting as RFEF president while he was suspended, that he was resigning, with the same applying to his position as a Uefa vice-president.

Spanish state prosecutors have since filed a lawsuit against Luis Rubiales for sexual assault and coercion.

Prosecutors presented the suit to Spain’s National Court in Madrid on Friday after Hermoso spoke out about not giving consent.

If found guilty, he could face a fine or a prison sentence of one to four years.

Rubiales is alleged to have committed an act of coercion when, according to Hermoso, he pressured her to speak out in his defence after the scandal erupted.

Rubiales has insisted the kiss was consensual, but Hermoso has denied that was the case. Prosecutors have asked the judge that Rubiales appear before a court to give preliminary testimony.

If the National Court judge agrees to hear the case, it would lead to a formal court investigation that will end with a recommendation for the case to either be dismissed or go to trial.

Meanwhile, Rubiales’s mother and her sister have locked themselves in a church in Motril, Spain, to protest the criticism Luis is facing, with his mother saying that she will also be on a hunger strike until the “inhuman, bloodthirsty witch hunt” against her son concludes.

As the world continues to support Hermoso in the aftermath of an act many are calling sexual assault, here is a look at who Luis Rubiales is.

Who is Luis Rubiales?

Luis Rubiales, 46, is a former professional football player, and the former president of the RFEF and vice president of Uefa.

He was born in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, to father Luis Manuel Rubiales Lopez, a primary school teacher, and mother Ángeles Béjar, a hairdresser.

He grew up in the Motril region of Granada before starting his football career. He built his career at clubs like Guadix CF, RCD Mallorca B and Alicante CF, before making his debut in the Spanish top flight in 2004.

In 2009, when he was 32 years old, Rubiales signed a one-year deal to join the Scottish Premier League team Hamilton Academical. However, he announced his retirement soon after and returned to Spain.

In March 2010, the footballer was elected to be the President of the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE), a position he held until 2017.

Then, in May 2018, he became the RFEF president, a position he has held ever since, until now.

Recent years have seen corruption allegations being made against the former athlete, with the Spanish newspaper El Confidencial leaking documents and audio files that revealed conversations between Rubiales and footballer Gerard Pique.

In these files, named Supercopa Files, Rubiales is heard negotiating to pay Pique commissions in relation to the Supercopa de España in Saudi Arabia. He asked that he ensure Barcelona and Real Madrid were two of the participating teams in the event.

Rubiales kissed the female athlete without her consent (ES)
Rubiales kissed the female athlete without her consent (ES)

What did Luis Rubiales do at the 2023 Women’s World Cup to spark outrage?

August 2023 saw Spain take home the trophy after defeating the Lionesses in the Women’s World Cup.

During the celebrations, Rubiales kissed Spain’s midfielder Jennifer Hermoso on the lips while presenting her with a medal. Hermoso later revealed that she hadn’t consented to the kiss.

Rubiales was also spotted grabbing his crotch during the game, while Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter were just metres away away in the stands.

Since the incident, the AFE released a statement saying that if he didn’t resign immediately, the association would demand that the Sports Law is applied against him.

La Liga also filed a complaint with the High Sports Council asking for Rubiales to be disqualified. Meanwhile, Fifa has opened disciplinary proceedings against him and football players across the globe have begun to publicly criticise Rubiales.

He has since quit.