MADRID - A group of 39 players from Spain, including most of the 23 Women's World Cup-winning squad, said on Friday it wanted further changes at the Spanish soccer federation and that the resignation of chief Luis Rubiales and the replacement of the team's manager was not enough.
In a statement, the women did not clarify whether they would continue to boycott national team matches, but said they had called on the RFEF to restructure Rubiales' former cabinet, the Secretary General, the communications and marketing department and the so-called integrity unit.
— Alexia Putellas (@alexiaputellas) September 15, 2023
An original group of 81 players called the boycott in the wake of the furore over Rubiales' allegedly unsolicited kiss on the lips of player Jenni Hermoso in Sydney after Spain won the World Cup last month.
"The 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 group of 39 said in the statement.
"The changes produced until now are not enough for the players to feel in a safe place."
The Spanish players have sent their specific requests to the RFEF for changes needed in order for them to return to Spain Women's National Team. ️ pic.twitter.com/9y3ZlJG1Dw— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) September 15, 2023
An RFEF spokesperson said the federation was in talks with the players and had postponed a press conference in which recently-appointed coach Montse Tome was set to announce the squad for Spain's match against Sweden on Sept. 22 in the Nations League.
The competition will determine which countries from Europe qualify for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.
The rebels could face sanctions including fines and suspension of their licences that could prevent them from representing their clubs under a new sports law which classifies an "unjustified failure to attend a team meeting" as a "very serious infringement."
Should the new law be applied, they could face fines of up to $31,965 and the suspension of their federation licence for 2-15 years.
Rubiales resigned as president of the RFEF and from his position as vice president of UEFA after weeks of resisting calls from players, politicians and women's groups to step down.
He appeared in court on Friday to testify before a judge, who is investigating whether the kiss and subsequent alleged efforts to force Hermoso to say it was "a mutual gesture", constitute sexual abuse and coercion.
Hermoso said in her complaint against Rubiales that he and his entourage had issued a statement without her approval quoting her as saying the kiss was a "mutual, totally spontaneous gesture".
The women's team has been at loggerheads with the RFEF over playing conditions for nearly a decade to combat sexism and achieve parity with their male counterparts.
Since 2015 the players have staged two dressing room rebellions, denouncing a culture of bullying and complaining that the previous two coaches were not sufficiently qualified to work at an international level.
A new board at the RFEF formed after Rubiales was suspended by soccer's world governing body FIFA, last week sacked Jorge Vilda, who managed the team during the World Cup, and replaced him with his assistant Tome.
(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Christian Radnedge)