Fifa suspends Luis Rubiales and coaching staff walk out over Women’s World Cup kiss row

The staff on Spain’s women’s national team have resigned in protest but Rubiales refuses to walk away from his role as Spanish FA president

Lawrence Ostlere
Saturday 26 August 2023 22:07 BST
Spanish FA head insists he 'won't resign' over World Cup final kiss

Fifa has suspended Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales over his conduct and the women’s national team’s coaching staff have walked out as he still refused to resign over the deepening World Cup kiss row.

Rubiales has been banned from all football-related activity for 90 days and is not allowed to contact Spanish midfielder Jenni Hermoso or those close to her.

He is currently the subject of a Fifa investigation into his behaviour after the match, when he kissed forward Hermoso on the lips and was also filmed grabbing his crotch in an aggressive celebration at the full-time whistle. He has come under increasing pressure from across sport and politics but on Friday refused to resign in a chaotic press conference.

While Rubiales held his ground, federation vice president Rafael del Amo, who had been in charge of women’s football, resigned. Four assistant coaches for Spain’s senior team, plus two coaches of the women’s youth teams, and five other staff members for the senior and youth women’s teams also resigned on Saturday.

Spain’s World Cup winning manager Jorge Vilda – a firm allay of Rubiales – has not followed his staff in stepping down and remains in his post, although he condemned the federation president’s actions as “inappropriate and unacceptable”.

In a statement, Fifa said: “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.”

Rubiales claimed the kiss was “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual” but Hermoso, who previously suggested comments playing down the incident attributed to her by the federation were false, hit back with an attack on the organisation as a whole.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) which Rubiales runs said it analysed four images of Hermoso and Rubiales embracing, claiming they show it was Hermoso’s force that lifted him in the air, in an effort to blame the player for initiating the kiss. Hermoso was quoted in a statement issued by Futpro, the players’ union representing her, as stating “in no case did I seek to raise the president” during the podium incident.

Hermoso had accused the Federation of a “manipulative, hostile and controlling culture” as the World Cup-winning squad refused to play while Rubiales remains in post. A total of 81 players signed a letter stating they will not accept national team call-ups while Rubiales refuses to resign.

In the early hours of Saturday, RFEF said it would show there have been lies about what happened by Hermoso or people speaking for her and vowed to initiate legal action.

“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.

FA Spanish president Luis Rubiales kisses Jenni Hermoso

Rubiales has also come under fire when footage emerged appearing to show the federation president grabbing his crotch when Spain won, while sat close to the Queen of Spain and her 16-year-old daughter.

Elsewhere, Spain’s government has started legal proceedings seeking to suspend the soccer federation chief. Victor Francos, head of the state-run National Sports Council, told a news conference: “The government starts today the procedure so that Mr Rubiales has to give explanations before the Sport Court and if the Sport Court agrees, I can announce that we will suspend Mr Rubiales from his functions.”

The secretary of sport also added that he hoped this incident would become “Spanish football’s MeToo moment”.

The Spanish team has also been backed by the Lionesses, whom they beat in Sunday’s final in Sydney. England players declared on Friday evening that they stand with Hermoso, describing the incident as “unacceptable”.

Full Fifa statement on Luis Rubiales

“The chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, Jorge Ivan Palacio (Colombia), in use of the powers granted by article 51 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC), has decided today to provisionally suspend Mr. Luis Rubiales from all football-related activities at national and international level. This suspension, which will be effective as of today, is for an initial period of 90 days, pending the disciplinary proceedings opened against Mr. Luis Rubiales on Thursday, August 24.

“Likewise, the chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and in order to preserve, among other factors, the fundamental rights of the national soccer team player Ms. Jennifer Hermoso and the good order of the disciplinary proceedings before this disciplinary body, has issued two additional directives (article 7 FDC) by which he orders Mr. Luis 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. Likewise, the RFEF 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.

“The decision adopted by the chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has been communicated today to Mr. Luis Rubiales, the RFEF and UEFA for due compliance.“

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee will not provide any further information on these disciplinary proceedings until a final decision has been taken.“FIFA reiterates its absolute commitment to respect the integrity of all persons and therefore condemns with the utmost vigor any behavior to the contrary.”

Additional reporting by PA

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