If Spain were a company, its shares would have fallen for several days. The country’s name has been associated with the words machismo, sexism or toxic masculinity in the media around the world through the kiss on the mouth that Luis Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), gave to the player Hermoso after winning the Women’s World Cup. The communication experts interviewed agree that the gesture has damaged the reputation of the Spanish brand, but at the same time argue that the reaction to social rejection by society and the procedure initiated by the authorities to remove him from office could be key to reversing this negative perception and instead convey that of a country that is inflexible in these procedures.
“If in the Vinicius case the global debate was about whether Spain was racist or not, now it is about whether Spain tolerates sexist attitudes or not,” said José María Cubillo, director of the Mesias Institute, an independent think tank dedicated to the Dedicated to monitoring the brand Spain. says on the phone. . Football, one of the soft power instruments that has traditionally fueled Spain’s reputation abroad, where travelers are often asked whether they prefer Real Madrid or Barcelona, has become a problem this year.
Cubillo compares what happened to another event that filled international front pages. “The last time there was such a big drop in the country brand was at 1-O in Catalonia.” And he explains that the damage is not only due to the negative impact of Rubiales, but also to the, what Spain as a country loses by winning the championship, what it calls loss of profits. “A triumph of these characteristics creates awareness and brand recall. It is a very good way to attract future tourists who will consider us for their next vacation. What we no longer earn is incalculable. “There is no government that can create a campaign comparable to winning the World Cup.” According to a report by the Women’s Soccer League, the international media impact of the Rubiales case was even greater than the title win and overshadowed the sporting success.
The idea that Spain has modernized is floating in the world press, but references to dark times keep returning. The financial portal Bloomberg wrote this on Monday. “For Spain, winning the Women’s World Cup should have been a moment of celebration. Instead, it laid bare the toxic masculinity that still permeates the euro’s fourth-largest economy more than 40 years after the end of the Franco dictatorship, a time when the country underwent radical social change that made it one of the most progressive countries in the world made the world.” Spain is portrayed as a country that has changed for the better, but in which a latent machismo persists in certain parts of the population, as can be read in the New York Times. “The kiss embodies the generational and cultural divide between the traditions of machismo and the more recent progressivism that has brought Spain to the European forefront on issues of feminism and equality.” The Economist takes the same line and headlines: “A machismo scandal in Spanish football overshadows the country’s progress. “And he adds: “A large part of society has left behind outdated ways of thinking.” But the elites have not yet caught up.”
The big question is: will the audience pay more attention to the gesture of a representative of Spain or the reaction of the street to it? “Spain is not a particularly sexist country, we are at the bottom when we compare ourselves to the European average. I think the second thing will be more important, the strong social and institutional response to the incident,” says Carmen González, researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute.
With 74.6 points out of 100, Spain ranks sixth in the classification of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). Its director, Carlien Scheele, denied via email that Spain would lose positions in this ranking as a result of the incidents. “Spain has a rich history of women’s rights movements and a high level of awareness of making these cases public and not condoning them. This case is an opportunity for major structural change, but sexism in sport is not specific to Spain and is widespread. The government’s commitment demonstrates its commitment to the fight against gender-based violence and its political will to improve the institutional response.”
According to Eduardo Irastorza, a brand identity expert who has worked for public administrations, multinational corporations and football teams, the flow of ink on the issue seems to be endless and the difficulty of ending the crisis is precisely one of the problems. “It has to be solved in the shortest possible time. That’s the key. When the ship Costa Concordia sank in Italy, the passengers were rescued, the captain was imprisoned and after four days the issue was no longer discussed. We’ve been doing this here for a week. And it turns into a ball.”
The reach of the kissing image, viewed millions of times on social networks and reproduced by media outlets around the world, is undisputed. It has reached the press room of the European Commission in Brussels, which was asked about the possible damage to the reputation of European sport. The UN has spoken about it. And a snowball has emerged that is difficult to stop. Culture and Sports Minister Miquel Iceta revealed that the issue was at the center of discussions during the G20 meeting in India. “A crisis like this can destroy a brand. There are companies that have disappeared for much less money, but with countries more intensity is required,” says Cubillo.
There are disagreements about whether the government’s actions came quickly enough. Vice President Yolanda Díaz regretted the “slowness” of the executive compared to FIFA’s agility. But Iceta responded that the Sports Administrative Court (TAD) “determines the deadlines” and the government “cannot dissolve an association or change the president.” The TAD opened proceedings against Rubiales this Friday, but only for “serious” misconduct, meaning the Higher Sports Council cannot dismiss him and will request a precautionary measure to suspend him.
As the days pass in this tug-of-war, the message the government is trying to convey is one of a country unyielding to this kind of behavior. “The positive thing about the Rubiales case is that Spain no longer tolerates sexist behavior,” said Vice President Nadia Calviño this Thursday. The story is based on street protests, the outrage of social networks and the unanimous condemnation of the political class. However, if the situation worsens and Rubiales’ departure is not sudden, she risks being eclipsed in the eyes of the world. .
There were also voices in international public opinion praising the way the controversy was handled, as in an article by Bloomberg columnist Bobby Ghosh that was published in several international media outlets, including the Washington Post and the Portuguese Publico. Under the title “Spain teaches how to face sexual harassment,” he writes: “The way Spanish authorities responded to the apparent sexual harassment of soccer star Jennifer Hermoso contains an important lesson for companies (and organizations in general) from all over the world.” The world: Take action against the attacker, even if the victim doesn’t complain.”
He cannot defend his candidacy for the 2030 World Cup
The reputational crisis triggered by Rubiales’ behavior has exploded with the joint candidacy of Spain, Portugal and Morocco as the big favorites to organize the 2030 World Cup following the withdrawal of Saudi Arabia. The only obstacle to overcome is the South American option, which consists of Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile and is based on the mystique of the 100th anniversary of the first World Cup in the Uruguayan country. The 211 FIFA associations will cast their votes at the end of 2024. The preference for the proposal put forward by the Spanish, Portuguese and Moroccans arises from the politics of bloc voting. They have all Europeans (55), the majority of Africans (54) and Asians (47), as well as what they can get from the 41 associations in Central America and the 11 in Oceania.
The South American candidacy begins with only the ten candidates from its confederation (Conmebol), but it will be difficult to get enough votes from the remaining five. The president of UEFA, Slovenia’s Alexander Ceferin, united the entire European vote when the United Kingdom withdrew from the candidacy in return for organizing the 2028 European Championship. The problem is that after what happened at the Women’s World Cup, Rubiales has not been able to represent either Spain or his candidacy before the rest of the world. Various sources familiar with the electoral processes organizing the World Cup warn that there will be European countries that will not be happy to vote for the Granada leader’s candidacy, as will the rest of the continents, given the extent of the media impact. and social events of Sydney events. Víctor Francos, President of the Higher Sports Council, has already warned: “Two weeks ago we were better positioned for the 2030 World Cup than we are now.”
The President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, is a strict observer of compliance with the protocols and was a direct witness of the touching of Rubiales’ genitals in the penalty area, with Queen Letizia and Infanta Sofía less than two meters away, and the subsequent non-consensual kiss of the Leader of Granada to Jennifer Hermoso. And last Thursday he posted a personal message on social media: “Unfortunately, the well-deserved celebration of these great champions was marred by what happened after the final whistle.” And what happened in the days that followed. This should never have happened. But it happened and the FIFA disciplinary bodies immediately accepted their responsibility (90-day ban) and took the necessary measures. “The disciplinary proceedings will take their legitimate course,” he warned. For the sake of the triple candidacy led by Spain, Infantino does not want to be photographed again with Rubiales at events of any kind. ·
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