Uefa rejects Spanish expulsion plea as Luis Rubiales crisis takes bizarre new twist

The Spanish Football Federation has attempted to get itself expelled from Uefa competitions in an act of ‘brinkmanship’ while its president is investigated for sexual assault

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Monday 28 August 2023 17:51 BST
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Spanish FA head insists he 'won't resign' over World Cup final kiss

Uefa will take no action over an astonishing request by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to be expelled over the Luis Rubiales crisis, as the federation president now faces an investigation from Spanish prosecutors for sexual assault.

In other developments of a story that even Uefa officials were describing as “absurd” and “stranger by the moment”, Rubiales’s mother Angeles Bejar locked herself in a church to go on hunger strike, before police and doctors eventually intervened. Such details have stunned even the most experienced people in football, but it is the request to the European body that is being seen as the most significant, given it sums up how surreal the story has become.

With Rubiales facing a series of official complaints and a government process that could yet see him banned from sport in Spain for two to 15 years – to go with his current 90-day suspension from Fifa – the federation sent a request to Uefa to be expelled for breaking Uefa’s own statutes on state interference. Expulsion would see clubs including Real Madrid and Barcelona kicked out of European competitions such as the Champions League.

The move has been interpreted as “bluster” and “brinkmanship” by the federation in order to support Rubiales, but it would still involve all of Spain’s club and national teams being removed from competition, depriving them of income and – in the words of one party – “setting Spanish football back years”. The Independent has been told that Uefa will not take action and that the government’s involvement does not meet the criteria for state interference.

Spain’s players and coaches celebrate their World Cup win – as Luis Rubiales (second left) joins in

Victor Francos, the president of Spain’s Higher Council for Sport who has become a central figure in this situation, stated on Monday that all of the relevant bodies are “acting within the regulations as they stand”. Rubiales being punished according to regulations and rules is different to the government just ousting him, which it cannot do, although it has created an almost Kafkaesque circus over what remains a serious issue.

Underpinning it all has been the Spanish government’s willingness to act on issues of equality and sexual harassment.

The country’s prosecutor’s office will ask World Cup winner Jenni Hermoso if she wishes to press charges against Rubialies after she stated that their kiss on the lips following Spain’s 1-0 win over England eight days ago was not consensual. It was that statement which led Rubiales’s mother to go on hunger strike in a church in his home town in Montril, demanding that Hermoso “tell the truth” about the incident. There have also been public accusations from one of Rubiales’s cousins that the Spanish midfielder changed her story – something that did not happen. All of this comes amid Fifa’s directive that Rubiales not contact Hermoso or her family.

Spain’s Administrative Court of Sport (TAD) has meanwhile been meeting all Monday to examine four complaints against Rubiales. Should it decide to open proceedings, it could mean the official is suspended for even longer than Fifa's 90-day provisional punishment.

In that event, the Spanish government has confirmed it would take action.

“If the court upholds the complaint and begins to process that case, we can request the provisional suspension of the president of the RFEF until TAD finishes analysing it and takes their decision,” sports minister Miquel Iceta said on Friday.

Also on Monday morning, the Spanish player’s union Futpro – representing Jenni Hermoso – further clarified Hermoso’s stance while describing a “structural problem” in the Spanish federation. In a video statement prior to meeting with union officials, Yolanda Diaz, deputy prime minister in the acting Socialist government, said that Rubiales’s defiance and the support from some federation members showed that macho behaviour was systematic in Spanish society.

“What footballer Jenni Hermoso experienced should never have happened,” Ms Diaz said. “Those who applauded Rubiales [at the assembly], in my opinion, should not continue in their positions.”

While Rubiales’s position as vice-president of Uefa has itself led to criticism of the European body for a lack of comment, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has been in constant contact with Fifa. The position is that since the events fall under the disciplinary jurisdiction of Fifa – because the World Cup was a Fifa event – it was agreed that Fifa’s disciplinary bodies would handle the case, something Uefa does not feel it should comment on.

The global football representative body FifPro is meanwhile yet to receive an official response from Uefa to a letter sent on Friday requesting disciplinary action against Rubiales.

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