FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee has provisionally suspended Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) head Luis Rubiales for 90 days, it said on Saturday, amid uproar after he grabbed player Jenni Hermoso’s head and kissed her on the lips after Spain’s victory at the Women’s World Cup.
Rubiales had been expected to announce his resignation on Friday but instead said he would not step down, and the RFEF threatened legal action to defend him after Hermoso said she did not consent to the kiss he gave her.
“The chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee… has decided today to provisionally suspend Mr Luis Rubiales from all football-related activities at national and international level,” FIFA said in a statement.
Its disciplinary committee also ordered Rubiales and RFEF officials and employees alike to refrain from contacting or attempting to contact Hermoso or those around her.
The Spanish national team that won the World Cup as well as several other players have said they would not play international matches while Rubiales remains head of the federation.
“The decision adopted by the chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has been communicated today to Mr Luis Rubiales, the RFEF and (European soccer body) UEFA for due compliance.”
The committee said it would not provide any further information on the disciplinary proceedings until a final decision was taken.
There was no immediate reaction from the RFEF. Reuters has contacted UEFA, where Rubiales is a vice president, for comment.
Spain’s soccer federation stands by its chief
In a statement issued in the early hours of Saturday, the Spanish federation said it would show there have been lies told about what happened by Hermoso or people speaking for her.
It said the Royal Spanish Football Federation would take appropriate legal action to defend Rubiales’ honour, but did not say what the action would consist of.
In the same statement, Hermoso denied Rubiales’ contention that the kiss he gave her was consensual, writing, “I want to clarify that, as was seen in the images, at no time did I consent to the kiss he gave me and, of course, in no case did I seek to lift the president”.
In its statement early on Saturday, the federation said: “The RFEF and the President, given the seriousness of the content of the press release from the FUTPRO Union, will initiate the corresponding legal actions.”
“Where there is rule of law … opinions are counteracted with facts and evidence, and lies are rebutted in court.”
“The RFEF and the President will show each of the lies that are spread either by someone on behalf of the player or, if applicable, by the player herself,” it said.
The statement was accompanied by four photos of the event last Sunday that it said illustrated Rubiales’ contention that Hermoso lifted him by the hips. Reuters could not immediately reach an official of the FUTPRO union by telephone for comment.
Two of the women’s team’s sponsors expressed support for the players on Friday.
Flag-carrier Iberia, part of International Consolidated Airlines Group, said: “When offensive situations occur, inappropriate for a developed, modern and egalitarian society such as Spain’s, Iberia supports the appropriate and pertinent measures that must be taken to preserve the rights and dignity of athletes.”
Power company Iberdrola was quoted by Spanish news agency EFE as saying: “We observe with great concern the situation which has developed in the past few days which has tarnished the great victory of the national team.”
Rubiales had been widely expected to resign at an emergency meeting of the federation on Friday. Instead, he said repeatedly that he would not quit and complained that “false feminists” were “trying to kill me”.
Acting Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz called his speech “unacceptable”. She wrote on social media: “The government must act and take urgent measures: impunity for macho actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in office.”
Gender issues have become a prominent topic in Spain in recent years. Tens of thousands of women have taken part in street marches protesting against sexual abuse and violence.
The Socialist-led coalition government has presided over legal reforms including around equal pay, abortion, sex work and transgender rights.
Rubiales’ comments and the supportive reaction he got from many in the audience at the federation meeting on Friday were widely scorned on social media.
The losing England national team said: “We all stand with you, @jennihermoso and all players of the Spanish team”.