England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Sexual harrassment in football: Fight back against sexism under capitalism!

By Sara Guardiola, Socialist Alternative Merseyside

The ongoing scandal engulfing the Royal Spanish Football Association, has shone a light on the deep misogyny at the heart of the system. The kiss on the lips that Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish Football Federation, forced on Jenni Hermoso at the trophy ceremony was a disgusting example of the sexual harassment that most, if not all, women suffer at some point in their lives – whether in the workplace or on the streets.

Last Friday, in a meeting where everyone expected Rubiales to resign, he instead showed the utter arrogance and entitlement of the rich and powerful, insisting that he would not be stepping down. In his speech, he shockingly denied the non-consensual nature of the kiss, blamed Hermoso for bringing him closer to her body, and gave us a lecture about what he calls ‘fake feminism’ that is trying to ‘socially assassinate him’. In an act of divide and rule, he attempted to pit Hermoso and her supporters against the millions of survivors of abuse worldwide. He downplayed what happened by saying:

“For God’s sake, what would women who have actually been sexually assaulted think?”

His crotch-grabbing as the full time whistle blew at the World Cup Final, again shows the machismo and demeaning behaviour that many women and gender non-conforming people face in the workplace and wider society.

If Rubiales believes that he can get away with this when millions of people are watching, what does he do in private? 

Players take brave stance

More than 80 current and ex Spanish football players have signed a statement saying that they will not return to play for the national team as long as the leadership remains in place. This can potentially show the power of collective action, in what is basically an unofficial strike by these women players. 

We’re seeing widespread international support, and not just from fans and players. The hashtag #SeAcabo (It’s Over) is trending on social media, reflecting that the feminist wave expressed in the MeToo has not disappeared. Many women have used this opportunity to speak out on situations of sexual harassment in the workplace. There have been protests in Spain, with more being planned on 1 September. Socialist Feminist Alternative stands in solidarity with all those protesting and taking action. We stand with you all in saying: no return to the pitch without Rubiales gone!Those backing Rubiales must be held to account too, to root out the sexism and misogyny in football.

Kick out Rubiales and the sexist system

All 11 members of the Spanish national team’s coaching staff have resigned in protest – everyone except Vilda, whom Rubiales has offered a four-year contract extension with a pay rise.

Because of all this pressure, Rubiales has been suspended for 90 days by FIFA while an investigation takes place. Meanwhile, the Spanish government is taking legal action against Rubiales. Finally, the Spanish Football Federation has announced that it will launch an internal investigation and the presidents of Spain’s regional football federations are calling for his resignation. However this is only after they initially said they would take legal action against Hermoso and questioned her version of events. This only goes to show that anything workers, women and the oppressed can ever win is when we organise from below and to force it from the hands of the rich and powerful – whether on the pitch, in the workplace or in wider society.

But the Spanish Football Federation has a very poor record in terms of abuse and internal discipline, and cannot be trusted with any kind of investigation. Last Saturday it even suggested it would sue Hermoso for lies and defamation! Instead, any inquiry needs to be led by elected representatives of women players, and from women’s organisations and campaign groups.

Players must continue to take action internationally to kick Rubiales out for good, and go further to make concrete gains for women’s standards in federations across the globe. Further to this, there need to be players union and fans control over hiring and firing any employee of the federation, so that any sexist, racist or LGBTQ+phobic employees can be democratically removed.

Politics in sports are a reflection of debates in wider society, and the high-profile discussion and actions for LGBTQ equality and women’s rights in sports can contribute to further organising.

Rubiales’ actions are unfortunately not uncommon, they’re a widespread issue, the reflection of a system (capitalism) which breeds oppression and exploitation, and which allows powerful men to believe that they’re invincible and can get away with anything. 

It will take the working class organised in its conscious power internationally to fundamentally change society. To dismantle the misogyny of the rich and powerful, in sports and in broader society, means ultimately ending their rule entirely. 

Socialist Feminist Alternative will be organising protests across England, Wales and Scotland on 25 November, to fight against gender based violence. Join us!


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