Football’s ruling body FIFA suspends Spanish football chief over kiss

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MADRID: Football’s ruling world body FIFA said on Saturday it had suspended Spanish federation chief Luis Rubiales from all football-related activities for three months as it investigates an incident in which he kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips after Spain’s Women’s World Cup victory.

The suspension from national and international activities takes effect immediately from Saturday, FIFA said in a statement on the action taken by disciplinary committee chief Jorge Ivan Palacio.

FIFA had opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales on Thursday over his actions last Sunday in Sydney.

Rubiales has been defiant over the kiss – which has been condemned as unwanted by Hermoso, her teammates and the Spanish government – arguing it was consensual. Earlier on Saturday the federation he heads had said it would stick by him.

However, after the FIFA statement, a spokesperson for the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said “We respect all the pronouncements of FIFA”.

In a statement hours before the FIFA move, the federation had said it would show there have been lies told about what happened by Hermoso or people speaking for her.

The statement, issued on the RFEF website, said it would take appropriate legal action to defend Rubiales’ honour, but did not say what the action would consist of.

Rubiales refused on Friday to resign as RFEF chief, seeking to defend his behaviour and calling the kiss “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual”.

Hermoso said she did not consent to the kiss and felt “vulnerable and the victim of an aggression”.

The Spanish government cannot fire Rubiales but has strongly denounced his actions and said on Friday it was seeking to get him suspended using a legal procedure before a sports tribunal.

The Spain women’s team has also mutinied. In a joint statement sent via their FUTPRO union on Friday evening, all 23 of the cup-winning squad including Hermoso, as well as 32 other squad members, said they would not play internationals while Rubiales remains head of the federation.

In the same statement, Hermoso denied Rubiales’ contention that the kiss he gave her was consensual, writing, “I want to clarify that, as was seen in the images, at no time did I consent to the kiss he gave me and, of course, in no case did I seek to lift the president”.

‘LEGAL ACTIONS’

In its statement early on Saturday, the federation said: “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.”

“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.

The statement was accompanied by four photos of the event last Sunday that it said illustrated Rubiales’ contention that Hermoso lifted him by the hips.

Reuters could not immediately reach an official of the FUTPRO union by telephone for comment.

Two of the women’s team’s sponsors expressed support for the players on Friday.

Flag-carrier Iberia, part of International Consolidated Airlines Group, said: “When offensive situations occur, inappropriate for a developed, modern and egalitarian society such as Spain’s, Iberia supports the appropriate and pertinent measures that must be taken to preserve the rights and dignity of athletes.”

Power company Iberdrola was quoted by Spanish news agency EFE as saying: “We observe with great concern the situation which has developed in the past few days which has tarnished the great victory of the national team.”

Rubiales had been widely expected to resign at the federations’s emergency meeting on Friday. Instead he said repeatedly that he would not quit and complained that “false feminists” were “trying to kill me”.

Acting Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz called his speech “unacceptable”. She wrote on social media: “The government must act and take urgent measures: impunity for macho actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in office.”

Gender issues have become a prominent topic in Spain in recent years. Tens of thousands of women have taken part in street marches protesting against sexual abuse and violence.

The Socialist-led coalition government has presided over legal reforms including around equal pay, abortion, sex work and transgender rights.

Rubiales’ comments and the supportive reaction he got from many in the audience at the federation meeting on Friday were widely scorned on social media. The losing England national team said: “We all stand with you, @jennihermoso and all players of the Spanish team”. – Reuters

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