Spain’s Women’s World Cup-winning coach Jorge Vilda has been sacked amid the fallout from the scandal involving the Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales.
Vilda was the only member of the women’s national team coaching set-up not to resign in protest at the behaviour of Rubiales at the end of the World Cup final, but the Spanish football federation (RFEF) confirmed his dismissal on Tuesday afternoon.
Concerns over Vilda’s coaching methods and regime were reported to have been a key factor in 15 Spain players refusing to play for the national team last year.
The federation, under Rubiales’ leadership, refused to budge in response to the players’ complaints, with a statement saying those involved would only be able to return to the national team “if they accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness”.
Vilda was seen applauding Rubiales at an emergency RFEF general assembly when he announced on August 25 that he would not resign over his actions in Sydney, where he kissed Spain midfielder Jenni Hermoso on the lips – something she says she did not consent to – and where he grabbed his crotch in the VIP area celebrating the win, stood just metres from Spain’s Queen Letizia and her teenage daughter.
Rubiales was suspended by FIFA the following day, pending an investigation into his conduct.
The RFEF made no reference to any discontent among the players in announcing Vilda’s exit, instead referring to his “professionalism and dedication during all these years”.
The statement described the move as one of the first “renewal measures” under current president Pedro Rocha, who earlier on Tuesday had published a letter apologising on behalf of the RFEF for Rubiales’ behaviour.
“We value (Vilda’s) impeccable personal and sporting conduct, being a key piece in the notable growth of women’s football in Spain. During his extensive period, Vilda has been a promoter of the values of respect and sportsmanship in football,” the RFEF statement confirming the coach’s dismissal said.
“The RFEF would like to express its gratitude to Jorge Vilda for the services provided, for his professionalism and dedication during all these years, wishing him the best successes in the future.
“The RFEF is left with an extraordinary sporting legacy thanks to the implementation of a recognised game model and a methodology that has been an engine of growth for all the women’s categories of the national team.”
The federation later announced Montse Tome, Vilda’s assistant and one of those who resigned after Rubiales’ address to the RFEF assembly, had been appointed as his successor.
Earlier in the afternoon, current RFEF president Rocha published a letter acknowledging the “enormous damage” caused both by Rubiales’ actions in Sydney and how he conducted himself subsequently.
“The damage caused to Spanish football, to Spanish sport, to Spanish society and the values of football and sport as a whole have been enormous,” Rocha’s letter said.
“Mr Rubiales’ actions do not represent the values defended by the Spanish federation, nor the values of Spanish society as a whole.
“His actions must be attributed solely and exclusively to him, since he is the one solely responsible for those actions before society, before the sports governing bodies and, if applicable, before justice.
“To be clear, this position was that of Mr Rubiales, not that of the RFEF. We feel especially sorry and ashamed for the pain and additional distress this has caused.”
All of Spain’s 23 World Cup winners, plus another 58 players, have said they will not represent their country until Rubiales has left his post.
Spain’s men’s team said in a statement on Monday that his behaviour had been “unacceptable” but called for unity as they focus on upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers.
On August 28, the presidents of the regional Spanish federations called on Rubiales to quit, and in addition to the FIFA investigation, the RFEF regional presidents are working alongside Spain’s Higher Sports Council (CSD) to conduct a thorough review of the federation’s governance. Spanish prosecutors have also opened a preliminary investigation into the matter.
The RFEF said it had withdrawn “inappropriate and meaningless communications” about what had happened at the final from its website, adding that these “did not value what was achieved by the national team and did not take into account the statements of (Hermoso) about these facts”.
However, an RFEF statement threatening Hermoso and the FUTPRO union with legal action, dated August 25, was still on the website at 2.40pm UK time on Tuesday afternoon.
That statement is also accompanied by photos posted in support of Rubiales’ case, and refers to “lies” told by Hermoso and FUTPRO.