FIFA has opened a disciplinary case against a Spanish football official over his conduct while celebrating his country’s victory in the Women’s World Cup final.
Luis Rubiales kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the trophy and medal ceremony on Sunday after Spain’s 1-0 victory over England in Sydney, Australia.
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Minutes earlier, Rubiales had grabbed his crotch in the exclusive section of seats with Queen Letizia of Spain and 16-year-old Princess Sofía standing nearby.
The global football governing body’s disciplinary committee said on Thursday that it will weigh whether the Royal Spanish Football Federation president had violated its code relating to “the basic rules of decent conduct” and “behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute”.
“FIFA reiterates its unwavering commitment to respecting the integrity of all individuals and strongly condemns any behaviour to the contrary,” the football body said without specifying which acts by Rubiales are under investigation.
Hermoso has said she did not like the kiss, and the national players union representing her – which the 46-year-old Rubiales once led – called Wednesday for his conduct to not go unpunished.
Víctor Francos, Spain’s secretary of state for sports, also said on Wednesday that “the gesture of grabbing his testicles in the tribune is a gesture that no one can defend”.
FIFA gave no timetable for a ruling. The body’s disciplinary judges can impose sanctions on individuals ranging from warnings and fines to suspensions from the sport.
The disciplinary panel is chaired by Colombian lawyer Jorge Palacio, a former labour court judge and member of Colombia’s Constitutional Court.
The case likely will be judged by three of the panel’s 16 members. Three of the 16 are women from England, Mexico and Thailand.
Rubiales is a vice president of UEFA, a role that pays 250,000 euros ($270,000) each year plus expenses, and was the European football body’s most senior representative at the biggest game in women’s football.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has yet to comment on the conduct of Rubiales, who is due to host the football body’s next annual congress in Madrid in February.
The Spanish federation, which Rubiales has led for five years, plans to hold an emergency meeting on Friday in Madrid. It is unclear if the meeting will shore up support for Rubiales or respond to widespread pressure from Spanish government and football officials to remove him.
Rubiales, who led the Spanish players union for eight years before taking over as federation president in 2018, is currently heading the UEFA-backed bid to host the men’s World Cup in 2030. Spain is bidding with neighbouring Portugal and Morocco and also possibly Ukraine.
Francos said Rubiales has damaged the country’s image as it tries to win support for its bid.
FIFA delayed launching the 2030 bid contest in June but has targeted late next year for a decision.
The Spain-led bid is currently favoured over a four-nation South American plan presented by Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and inaugural 1930 World Cup host Uruguay. Despite speculation about a possible bid from Saudi Arabia, the 2034 edition is seen as a more likely goal for the kingdom.