Luis Rubiales has been banned from all football-related activities for three years, following a Fifa disciplinary committee investigation into his conduct at the Women’s World Cup final.
The former president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) received a 90-day suspension six days after the final, during which he planted a kiss on the lips of Spain forward Jenni Hermoso during the medal ceremony – an act she says was not consensual. He claims it was.
Rubiales was also seen grabbing his crotch in celebration and carrying Athenea del Castillo over his shoulder following Spain’s historic World Cup win. He initially refused to resign from his post, insisting at an extraordinary general assembly called to address the issues that he was the victim of a witch-hunt and would not be stepping down.
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However, on 10 September, four days after Spain manager Jorge Vilda, a staunch ally of Rubiales who was backed by the president at the general assembly and offered a new €500,000-a-year-contract, was let go, Rubiales finally resigned.
On Monday, Fifa announced that Rubiales had been found to have breached article 13 of the Fifa Disciplinary Code, which relates to “offensive behaviour and violations of the principles of fair play” and was handed the three-year ban. “This case relates to the events that occurred during the final of the Women’s World Cup on 20 August 2023, for which Mr Rubiales had been provisionally suspended for an initial period of 90 days,” the statement said. “Mr Rubiales has been notified of the terms of the Fifa disciplinary committee’s decision today.
Rubiales said in a statement that he would appeal the decision, posting on X (formerly known as Twitter): “I will take this as far as I have to in order for justice to be done and for the truth to come out. For all the efforts of the institutions, politicians and the media it is ever clearer how disproportionate and unjust this is.”
Spain’s players celebrate their World Cup win in a Madrid ceremony on 21 August. Photograph: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images
The high court in Spain has been examining the case after prosecutors cited concerns that there could be grounds to charge Rubiales with sexual assault as well as coercion over the Hermoso kiss. In a statement published on 25 August, Hermoso said the incident had left her feeling “vulnerable and a victim of aggression”. She characterised the kiss as an “impulsive act, sexist, out of place and without any type of consent from my part”. Rubiales vowed to defend his “innocence” in a lengthy statement published last month and added: “I have faith in the truth and I will do everything in my power so that it prevails.”
For more than a decade, Spanish players have raised concerns about the culture and conditions around the women’s national team but those concerns have been ignored and players have faced retaliation for speaking out. In 2011 they complained about the federation’s indifference towards women’s football. After finishing bottom of their group at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, the entire team called for the resignation of manager Ignacio Quereda and an improvement in training and facilities.
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Quereda was sacked and Vilda hired, but the senior players that had been part of the rebellion were phased out of the squad. Following their exit at the quarter-final stage of the 2022 Euros, 15 players sent a letter to the federation saying they were withdrawing from being called up because their health was being impacted by the environment around the national team. Rubiales and the federation backed the manager, Vilda, and the players were not called up to subsequent squads unless they had apologised. Three returned to the squad for the World Cup.
Spain won the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand but the triumph was overshadowed by Rubiales’ actions. Hermoso was left out of the first squad after the tournament but made a triumphant return to the team last Friday, coming on as a substitute against Italy to score the winning goal in a 1-0 victory against Italy in the Nations League.