FIFA bans Spain's former soccer president for 3 years for unwanted World Cup kiss
Updated October 30, 2023 at 11:20 AM ET
FIFA has banned the former president of Spain's soccer federation, Luis Rubiales, from the game for three years after allegations that he placed an unwanted kiss on a player during the Women's World Cup medal ceremony this past summer.
The global governing body for soccer said Rubiales violated Article 13 of FIFA's disciplinary code, which prohibits offensive behavior by officials or players.
"FIFA reiterates its absolute commitment to respecting and protecting the integrity of all people and ensuring that the basic rules of decent conduct are upheld," FIFA said in a statement on Monday.
The three-year-ban forbids Rubiales from all soccer-related activities at both the national and international level.
In a post on X from an account that appears to belong to Rubiales, a statement read: "I will go to the last resort so that justice is done and the truth shines."
Rubiales has repeatedly claimed the kiss on Aug. 20 on Spanish soccer player Jenni Hermoso was mutual and that Hermoso had consented. Hermoso says that is "categorically false."
"I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part," she wrote in a statement in August.
FIFA's announcement was just the latest turn in the ongoing fallout from Rubiales' actions at the Women's World Cup. Here's more on what led up to the decision:
What exactly happened at the World Cup?
Spain's victory over England — the first ever World Cup title for the women's team — was supposed to be a moment of triumph. But it was quickly overshadowed by Rubiales' actions.
During the tournament's medal ceremony, the Spanish squad proceeded through a receiving line that included Rubiales. As he greeted Hermoso, Rubiales hugged the star forward tightly, then pulled her head toward his face and kissed her firmly on the lips.
Video also showed Rubiales making a crotch-grabbing gesture in the dignitaries box just after Spain's win over England, a few feet away from Spain's Queen Letizia and her teenage daughter, Princess Sofia.
After the match, Rubiales was in the locker room, where he announced to the team that they will all be going to Ibiza and then said: "There we will celebrate the wedding of Jenni and Rubiales."
The furor over his behavior began immediately, and Hermoso says the country's soccer federation continuously pressured her to make a statement in support of Rubiales' actions. Rubiales at first waved away criticism of his behavior, then offered an apology. Then, at an emergency meeting of the federation on August 25, he repeated five times "No voy a dimitir" – I will not resign.
What consequences has Rubiales faced?
Rubiales appeared in Spanish court for the first time in September after Hermoso submitted a formal complaint against him, prompting state prosecutors to formally accuse him of sexual assault and an act of coercion, the Associated Press reports. Rubiales denied any wrongdoing.
Judge Francisco de Jorge issued a restraining order against Rubiales, barring him from being within 200 meters (656 feet) of Hermoso. De Jorge is conducting the preliminary investigation in the case and will decide whether it will go to trial, per the AP.
Spain made changes to its laws on sexual assault last year, following an uproar over a gang-rape case in 2016. Under what's known as Spain's "Only Yes Is Yes" law, a non-consensual kiss can be considered sexual assault, the BBC explains. Rubiales could face a fine or a prison sentence of one to four years if he's found guilty of sexual assault.
Rubiales' court appearance came less than a week after he announced his resignation as president of the soccer federation. It also followed an announcement by FIFA that it was provisionally suspendingRubiales from all soccer-related activity for 90 days while it conducts disciplinary proceedings against him.
Spain's Sport Administrative Court also opened its own case in the matter, investigating complaints of "serious misconduct," alleged abuse of authority and "public acts that violate sporting dignity or decorum," Reuters explains. The court could find Rubiales unfit to hold future office.
He'll certainly take a financial hit. Rubiales resigned from two highly paid positions: president of the Spanish soccer federation, as well as his post as vice president of UEFA, the European soccer body. He was reportedly paid $688,462 in 2021 by the Spanish federation, as well as an annual salary of $270,000 by UEFA.
What's happening with the Spanish women's national team?
After Rubiales initially refused to resign, the entire Women's World Cup-winning team and dozens of other Spanish players put out a statement calling for structural changes and said they would notplay for Spain if its current leaders remained in place.
The federation then fired women's coach Jorge Vilda, who had been close with Rubiales and already the subject of a player rebellion last year. To replace him, the federation announced that the team's new head coach would be Montse Tomé. Tomé was an assistant coach to Vilda, and is the first female coach to lead Spain's women's team.
Tomé did not include Hermoso on the Spanish roster for the team's first two matches after the World Cup against Sweden and Switzerland. "We stand with Jenni ... we believe that the best way to protect her is like this, but we are counting on Jenni," Tomé said, according to Reuters.
Hermoso returned to action for the Spanish women on Oct. 27, scoring the winning goal against Italy in the 89th minute of play.
"What better joy than to get back here, to feel good again and to score the goal that gets the win — now I can only smile," Hermoso said after the game.
Among their demands are a restructuring the women's soccer organization, the presidential cabinet and General Secretariat; the resignation of the RFEF president (now Pedro Rocha); and restructuring of communications and marketing as well as integrity management.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.