FIFA suspended Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales from office on Saturday (Aug. 26) while its disciplinary committee investigates his conduct at the Women’s World Cup final, which included kissing a player on the lips without her consent.
The ruling comes six days after Rubiales was accused of becoming a national embarrassment in front of a global audience at the final in Sydney, Australia — overshadowing the enormous accomplishment of Spain women’s first World Cup title.
Along with kissing star player Jenni Hermoso — who said she did not give her consent — Rubiales also grabbed his crotch in a lewd victory gesture with Spain’s Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter Sofia nearby.
FIFA said Rubiales is removed from soccer duties for 90 days “pending the disciplinary proceedings opened” against him Thursday.
Rubiales refused to resign from his soccer presidency Friday at an emergency meeting of the Spanish soccer federation’s general assembly when he had been expected to leave under intense pressure from the Spanish government, women players plus soccer clubs and officials.
FIFA has given no timetable for a ruling by its disciplinary panel. The body’s disciplinary judges can impose sanctions on individuals ranging from warnings and fines to suspensions from the sport.
The move by FIFA came after the Spanish federation had even threatened action against Hermoso for refusing to accept Rubiales’s version of the kiss that happened at the on-field medal and trophy presentation after Spain’s 1-0 win against England last Sunday.
The suspension should prevent Rubiales working in soccer or having contact with other officials.
FIFA disciplinary judge Jorge Palacio also intervened Saturday to protect the “fundamental rights” of Hermoso and the integrity of the disciplinary case.
Palacio, a Colombian lawyer and former member of its constitutional court who has worked in women’s rights, ordered Rubiales “to refrain, through himself or third parties, from contacting or attempting to contact the professional player of the Spanish national football team Ms. Jennifer Hermoso or her close environment,” FIFA said in a statement.
“Likewise, the RFEF (Spanish soccer federation) and its officials or employees, directly or through third parties, are ordered to refrain from contacting the professional player of the Spanish national team Ms. Jennifer Hermoso and her close environment,” FIFA said.
In a complex situation, Spain’s government — via its Higher Council for Sports — filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that Rubiales violated the country’s sports laws through sexist acts. Spain’s secretary of state for sports, Víctor Francos, said Friday that the government would move to temporarily suspend Rubiales — pending the court ruling — if the court agrees to hear the case.
If found guilty by the Spanish court, Rubiales could be ruled unfit to hold office. Francos said he would ask the court to move its regular Thursday meeting up to Monday.
Local media had originally reported that Rubiales would announce his resignation to Friday’s general assembly of the federation. Instead, he defiantly dug in and accused Hermoso of having consented to a “mutual” kiss on the lips. He painted himself as the victim of a “witch hunt” by “false feminists,” and received applause from the mostly male crowd.
Hermoso responded in two statements, one through her players’ union and one in her name only, that Rubiales was lying and that she had felt intimidated.
All 22 of her Spain teammates, along with more than 50 other players, said in the statement by the players’ union that they would not play for Spain again as long as Rubiales stayed in charge. It was not immediately clear whether this situation has now changed after FIFA’s latest intervention.
The federation fired back with its own statement, saying that Rubiales was telling the truth and that it would seek legal action against Hermoso.
Messages of support for Hermoso poured in from the world of women’s soccer, and beyond.
Real Madrid, Barcelona and other clubs issued statements criticizing Rubiales and backing the government’s move to oust him. Political parties from both the left and right in Spain said he was unfit to continue in his post. Iberia airlines and other sponsors for the federations said they were with the government as well.
On Saturday morning, Spanish sports daily Marca summed up the previous day’s events with a front page headline “Global Laughing Stock” over a photo of a smiling Rubiales walking between rows of the general assembly.
Rubiales is a vice president of UEFA, holding the No. 3-ranking elected position at the top of the European soccer body which pays him 250,000 euros ($270,000) annually plus expenses
He was elected to the executive committee by UEFA member federations in 2019 and was within weeks promoted to the vice presidency by UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin.
Neither UEFA nor Čeferin have commented on the Rubiales scandal this week. FIFA has now intervened in the case twice.
Graham Dunbar And Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press