Spanish soccer starts process of meeting players’ demands in the aftermath of Rubiales scandal

The RFEF has dismissed general secretary Andreu Camps, a staunch ally of the former president, with more sackings to follow after the World Cup champions issued a list of executives they want removed

Spain coach Montse Tomé (left) during a training session in Oliva, Valencia, on Wednesday.Alberto Saiz (AP)
Nadia Tronchoni

He was the key piece. If he was removed, the restructuring of Spanish soccer would be possible, and a line would be drawn under Luis Rubiales’ tenure at the head of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). On Wednesday, the interim president of the federation, Pedro Rocha, honored the compromise reached with the squad of the Spanish women’s national team a day earlier and duly dismissed Andreu Camps, the RFEF general secretary.

With the departure of Camps, the RFEF will start work on the deep restructuring demanded by the players to return to the national fold. The dismissal of the RFEF general secretary comes a day after the Spanish government, through the president of the Superior Sports Council (CSD), Victor Francos, and the federation itself managed to unblock the internal crisis engulfing the organization after former RFEF president Rubiales non-consensually kissed Jenni Hermoso at the World Cup final in Australia. The management of that scandal — the federation closed ranks around Rubiales and singled out the victim, Hermoso, instead of helping and protecting her — caused a schism within the RFEF and a confrontation with the players, overshadowing their World Cup victory.

Camps was one of the most prominent figures in the RFEF, a staunch Rubiales supporter and one of executives who treated the players most harshly when a year ago 15 members of the squad made themselves unavailable for selection as a measure to push for structural changes in the RFEF, which at the time was governed with despotism and created a hostile environment for the athletes.

A year later, after the Rubiales case sparked a wave of protests in Spain, those changes are starting to come into effect. Camps’ departure is not the first — Rubiales and the divisive coach Jorge Vilda, despite Spain’s World Cup triumph, have both been removed — and nor will it be the last.

The 39 Spanish players who last Friday signed a statement demanding profound structural changes in the RFEF pointed to various departments and, on Tuesday, with the team training at a golf resort in Oliva, southeast of Valencia, they provided a list of names. In addition to Camps, the players are seeking the dismissal of Miguel Garcia Caba, director of the federation’s integrity department who drafted the report after Rubiales kissed Hermoso. Also on the players’ list are Rubén Rivera of the marketing department, who pressured Hermoso to alter her version of events and the director of the communications, Pablo García Cuervo, whose relationship with the players was eroded during the period in which 15 squad members refused to represent the team.

It remains to be seen how the players respond to the appointment of Montse Tomé to replace Vilda as national team coach. The former assistant is not a popular figure among the team and her promotion was seen as following a line of continuity, but neither was she among the figures that the players wanted removed from the RFEF structure. That is until Monday, when the coach named a squad including many players who had declared they were not available for selection until the reforms they demanded were implemented. She also gave a speech full of half-truths and euphemisms. Tomé has no authority over the players, but she will on the bench in Gothenburg on Friday when Spain play Sweden, and on Tuesday in Córdoba, when they face Switzerland. In all likelihood, she will be relieved of her post after those two games. No one anticipates she will last longer than that as the head of a team that does not trust her and feels cheated by her appointment.

Spain's Alexia Putellas waves to fans during a national team training session in Oliva, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.
Spain's Alexia Putellas waves to fans during a national team training session in Oliva, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. Alberto Saiz (AP / LAPRESSE)

Alexia: “I am not exactly here to feel comfortable”

The 21 players who remained at the training camp in Oliva — Mapi León and Patri Guijarro departed on Wednesday morning on the understanding they would not be sanctioned — returned to the field in the afternoon with many issues still to be resolved. Hermoso was omitted from the call-up: Tomé left her out without speaking to the player, supposedly to “protect her,” although Hermoso does not view it in the same way.

The players have not forgotten that they are playing under duress, with the threat of losing their federative licenses. “I am not exactly here to feel comfortable,” Barcelona star and Ballon d’Or holder Alexia Putellas told the press. The players have received the support of fans, however, with hundreds turning out to see the world champions train.

On Thursday, the team will travel to Sweden for the opening match of the Nations League, which will serve as a qualification tournament for the Paris Olympics. They will do so after securing the government’s commitment to implementing the deep structural changes they have been demanding for so long, which began Wednesday with the departure of Camps.

“This is not a happy ending; it is a happy beginning of a path that should lead to a renewed federation and to the players feeling comfortable and happy to play and win. The road will not be easy because the federation is in a transitional moment, but it will culminate with the elections in the first quarter of 2024,” said Spain’s Minister of Culture and Sport Miquel Iceta.

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