Fifa suspends Spanish football president Luis Rubiales and coaches resign

Eleven of the women's coaching team quit in protest after he kissed player Jennifer Hermoso on the lips after World Cup win

Fifa has suspended Spanish football president Luis Rubiales for 90 days after calls for him to resign. Reuters
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Fifa has suspended Spanish football president Luis Rubiales from “all football-related activities at national and international level” in response to his conduct at the women's World Cup final in Sydney.

Pressure on Rubiales, 46, grew on Saturday when the Spanish women's coaching staff resigned. Head coach Jorge Vilda was the only member of the coaching staff not to resign, but he weighed in separately and criticised Rubiales' behaviour as “inappropriate and unacceptable”.

Rubiales has refused to resign for kissing player Jennifer Hermoso on the lips during the trophy presentation after Spain beat England last Sunday.

The move by Fifa, world football's governing body, followed the Spanish football federation saying it would take legal action against Hermoso, 33, after she issued a statement on Friday saying she had not given consent for the kiss.

All 11 coaching staff released a statement expressing condemnation of Rubiales and support for Hermoso.

“The undersigned express their firmest and most emphatic condemnation of the conduct shown by the president of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Manuel Rubiales Béjar, with the player of the National Women's Soccer Team, Jennifer Hermoso,” they said.

Fifa said: "(We) decided today to provisionally suspend Mr Luis Rubiales from all football-related activities at national and international level.”

The suspension would last 90 days, pending Fifa's disciplinary proceedings, and it did not give a timetable for a ruling by the panel.

On Friday, in a statement released through the players' union Futpro, Hermoso said: “I want to clarify that at no time did I consent to the kiss that he gave me.” The football president had claimed the kiss was “mutual … and consensual”.

Fifa's disciplinary judge Jorge Palacio intervened on Saturday to protect the player's “fundamental rights” and the integrity of the disciplinary case.

Mr Palacio 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”.

This order was also applied to “the RFEF (Spanish Soccer Federation) and its officials or employees, directly or through third parties”.

The body’s disciplinary judges can impose sanctions on individuals ranging from warnings and fines to suspensions from the sport.

Earlier, the Spanish Football Federation had provided four images of the incident, which it says proved Hermoso applied force to lift Rubiales’s feet off the ground, which she denies.

The football federation said: “The evidence is conclusive. Mr President has not lied.”

It added: “The RFEF and Mr President will demonstrate each of the lies that are spread either by someone on behalf of the player or, if applicable, by the player herself.

“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.”

Hermoso, along with 80 other Spain players, including the entire World Cup winning squad, announced on Friday that they would not play for the national team until the “leadership” changed and Rubiales, 46, was removed.

The football president refused to resign on Friday despite unprecedented criticism, saying he was the target of a campaign to get rid of him.

In a fiery speech, he said the kiss was “mutual, euphoric and consensual” and Hermoso had said “OK” when he asked her if he could give her “a peck”.

Coach Vilda said: “I deeply regret that Spanish women's football's triumph has been harmed by the improper behaviour of our leader Luis Rubiales, which he himself has acknowledged.”

The Spanish government had started its own process to suspend the federation president from his post.

The nation’s sports council – which oversees Spain’s sports associations – said it would file a complaint against Rubiales at a sports tribunal and wanted the case to be heard on Monday. If the court accepts the complaint, the sports council will also immediately move to suspend him.

“We want this to be the ‘Me too’ moment for Spanish football,” Victor Francos, who heads the sports council, said at a news conference in Tarragona.

Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez said: “I want to give my unconditional support to Jennifer Hermoso and the players. I condemn the behaviour of the president of the Spanish Football Federation.

The coach of the Spanish men's team, Luis de la Fuente, joined the criticism. “I unreservedly condemn the wrong and inappropriate behaviour of the President of the RFEF,” he said.

Rubiales has apologised for kissing Hermoso at Stadium Australia. He initially defended his position before backing down and admitting he was “completely wrong”.

Hermoso initially said in a video posted on her Instagram feed that she “did not enjoy” the kiss.

A subsequent statement sent by the federation to the news agency EFE quoted her as saying that “it was a mutual gesture, totally spontaneous because of the immense joy that winning a World Cup brings.”

Rubiales said Friday that the kiss was consensual as he had asked Hermoso’s permission and she had agreed. “Fake feminism doesn’t seek justice or truth, doesn’t care about people,” he said, adding that he feels like a victim of “a social execution.”

Airline Iberia, a unit of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, became the first of the Spanish federation’s sponsors to wade into the scandal.

“When offensive situations occur, which are out of place in developed, modern and egalitarian societies such as Spain, Iberia supports the necessary and appropriate measures that have to be taken to preserve the rights and dignity of athletes,” the carrier said.

Updated: August 27, 2023, 4:14 AM