What is Luis Rubiales’ fate after kiss scandal?

Aug 29, 2023, 12:00pm EDT
People protest outside the Spanish Soccer Federation
REUTERS/Isabel Infantes
J.D. Capelouto/

Spanish prosecutors have opened a sexual assault investigation into the country’s soccer federation president after he kissed a player following Spain’s victory at the Women’s World Cup. Amid growing calls for Luis Rubiales to resign, FIFA has suspended him for 90 days and his mother has gone on a hunger strike.

Here’s what could happen next in the saga.

After Rubiales' ardent refusals to resign, it became clear that "some sort of action from the outside was going to be needed" to remove him from his post, ESPN's Alex Kirkland said.1 The Spanish government filed a complaint with the country's Administrative Sports Court that could lead to his firing. The outcome of that and the FIFA probe remains to be seen, but FIFA's disciplinary code details a range of sanctions including fines, penalties, and bans for people who violate its rules.

Within Spain, the Rubiales story has become a lingering, "unavoidable issue," soccer journalist Semra Hunter said. The Guardian's Suzy Wrack said the saga shows a failure in the structure of Spanish sports, with no simple way for a board to remove Rubiales from his post. "It's frustrating that they're able to just get this stranglehold on power like they can, and then basically do whatever the hell they want with it, and we still can't get rid of them."2


The Guardian's Football Weekly podcast, Luis Rubiales and Spain: what happens now?

Prosecutors and the government should have taken steps even earlier to start investigating Rubiales' behavior, El País' Santiago Segurola argued. They "could and should" have acted immediately right after the World Cup final, and several experts and advocates were surprised it took them several days to step in.3

Rubiales will likely not survive the controversy, according to Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation.4 But if he does emerge "as some kind of folk hero, it will tell us just how far we have to go, and not only in Spain," Zirin argued. But at least, with the public now being forced to take a stand on the issue, "the battle lines have been drawn."