GENEVA (AP) — FIFA on Saturday suspended the president of the Spanish Soccer Federation, Luis Rubiales, while its disciplinary committee investigates his conduct at the Women’s World Cup finalwhich included a kiss on the lips to the player Jenni Hermoso after Spain’s victory.
The provisional suspension comes less than a week later Spain win 1-0 over England in Sydney, Australia, and one day after Rubiales refused to resign, despite intense pressure from the Spanish government, players, soccer clubs and officials. Rubiales’ conduct, which also included grabbing her crotch, has overshadowed the enormous achievement of Spain’s first women’s world title.
Hermoso has said that he did not agree to the kiss and the team’s players have said that they will not play any more games while Rubiales is in charge. It was not immediately clear how FIFA’s latest intervention might affect that.
FIFA said it removed Rubiales from his soccer duties for 90 days “waiting for disciplinary procedures opened” against him on Thursday.
The president of Spain’s women’s league, Beatriz Álvarez, told The Associated Press that she believed this was the end of Rubiales’ soccer career. The league filed one of several official complaints against Rubiales that the Spanish government received last week.
“Luis Rubiales is finished. He has dug his own grave with his actions and his words, ”Álvarez stated. “Whether by the action of FIFA or the Spanish government, I am sure that Luis Rubiales will not be another minute as president of the Spanish federation.”
The federation named Vice President Pedro Rocha interim president. He added in a statement that Rubiales “has full confidence in FIFA’s procedures and will take this opportunity to start his defense so that the truth is known and his innocence is proven.”
The federation has threatened legal action against Hermoso for refusing to accept Rubiales’ version of the kiss that occurred at the medal and trophy ceremony on the field last Sunday.
FIFA has not given a timetable for a ruling. The body’s disciplinary judges can impose sanctions ranging from warnings and fines to suspensions from the sport.
The action taken on Saturday should prevent Rubiales, who is also a UEFA vice president, from working in soccer or having contact with other officials.
Rubiales has been leading the joint bid by Spain, Portugal, Morocco (and possibly Ukraine) to host the 2030 World Cup. The suspension means he cannot attend UEFA meetings or vote in October to decide the winning bids for the 2028 and 2032 European Championships.
Also on Saturday, FIFA disciplinary judge Jorge Palacio ordered Rubiales and the federation not to contact Hermoso, FIFA said in a statement. Hermoso had said the federation pressured her to publicly endorse Rubiales.
The Spanish government, through its Higher Sports Council, filed a lawsuit on Friday alleging that Rubiales violated the country’s sports laws on two counts: for an alleged abuse of power and for allegedly “committing acts that tarnished the dignity and decorum of a sporting event. If convicted, Rubiales could be found unfit to hold office.
Spain’s Secretary of State for Sports, Víctor Francos, who chairs the sports council, said FIFA’s decision “reinforces and reaffirms that the path that the Spanish government announced yesterday was the correct one.”
Local media originally reported that Rubiales would announce his resignation at the federation’s general assembly on Friday. Instead, she insisted, portraying herself as the victim of a “witch hunt” by “fake feminists” to applause from the mostly male crowd.
Hermoso responded that Rubiales was lying about the kiss being consensual and that she had been intimidated.
The federation backed Rubiales, saying he was telling the truth.
While Rubiales stood her ground, the federation’s vice president, Rafael del Amo, who had been in charge of women’s soccer, resigned. Four assistant coaches from Spain’s senior team, plus two coaches from the women’s youth national teams and five other staff members from the senior and youth women’s teams also resigned on Saturday.
Messages of support for Hermoso poured in.
Ahead of their match against Girona on Saturday, players of the Sevilla men’s team wore T-shirts with the message “This is over,” echoing the words of Hermoso’s teammate and two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas. posted on social media on Friday.
Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández condemned Rubiales’ behavior during a pregame media conference.
“It is totally unacceptable,” he said.
Real Madrid, Barcelona and other clubs issued statements criticizing Rubiales and backing the government’s move to remove him. Both the European players union and the Spanish women’s league endorsed Hermoso.
Political parties on both the left and right in Spain said Rubiales was unfit to continue in office. Iberia airlines and other sponsors of the federation said they were also with the government.
Rubiales got some support, at least in the assembly. Among those who applauded him on Friday were Spain women’s coach Jorge Vilda and Spain men’s coach Luis de la Fuente. But after Rubiales was suspended, his supporters began to abandon him. Both Vilda, who had just seen almost his entire staff resign, and De la Fuente issued statements admonishing his conduct.
The rage for Rubiales comes months after Spanish football was shaken by racist slurs about the black star Vinicius Junior. Several people were arrested and charged with racist chants against Junior and hanging an effigy of him.
Rubiales occupies the third elected position in the UEFA ranking, which pays him 250,000 euros ($270,000) a year plus expenses. Rubiales earned 339,000 euros ($365,000) in 2021 after taxes, for presiding over the Spanish federation on a budget of 382 million euros ($412 million).
He was elected to the executive committee by the UEFA member associations in 2019 and within weeks was promoted to vice-presidency by UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin.
Neither UEFA nor Čeferin have ruled on the Rubiales scandal.
Rubiales, 46, whose term ends next summer, is a former player who led the Spanish branch of the global players union for eight years before being chosen in 2018 to replace his predecessor in the federation, who ended up behind bars for corruption.
His tenure has been marked by big moves to modernize Spanish football, as well as scandals. He renewed the Copa del Rey to make it a shorter and more exciting competition. But his reform of the Spanish Super Cup, which consisted of taking it to Saudi Arabia for 40 million dollars a year, was criticized by human rights groups and scrutinized by the authorities. Last year, Spain’s state prosecutor’s office announced it was opening an investigation into the contracts behind the Spanish Super Cup contracts.
Wilson reported from Barcelona, Spain.
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