Spain’s National Sports Council (CSD) urged the country’s Sports Administrative Tribunal (TAD) to provisionally suspend soccer boss Luis Rubiales on Friday after the TAD opened a case against him for “serious”, rather than “very serious” misconduct.
Rubiales caused a storm when he kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips after Spain’s victory in the women’s World Cup in Sydney. He also grabbed his crotch while standing feet away from Spain’s Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter.
The TAD’s decision not to open a case for “very serious” misconduct means the CSD will not be able to suspend Rubiales as head of the country’s football federation for the duration of the investigation.
But acting sports minister Miquel Iceta, at a press conference on Friday, called for Rubiales’ suspension and said the government considered his behaviour “very serious” for “abuse of authority” and “damage to the image of soccer”.
In a statement released just minutes after Iceta’s press conference and published in Spanish papers including El Mundo, Rubiales acknowledged the TAD’s decision to open a case and not classify his actions as “very serious”.
“I will continue to defend myself to prove the truth,” he said, criticising the “unprecedented political and media lynching” he has faced.
World soccer governing body FIFA has already suspended Rubiales from all football-related activities for three months while it investigates, but the CSD said it would move ahead with its own case regardless.
Rubiales has refused to resign, and has said the kiss was consensual. Hermoso has said she did not consent to the kiss and felt “vulnerable and the victim of an aggression”.
Spain’s Olympic chief said on Friday Rubiales’ actions were “inappropriate, unacceptable” and did not represent Spanish sport as a whole.
Men’s national team coach Luis de la Fuente meanwhile apologised for clapping for Rubiales as he refused to quit last week, and players’ unions announced a two-match strike in the women’s domestic league in protest over their conditions and pay.
Prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into a possible sexual assault over the kiss.
The fallout has become a “Me Too” moment in Spain, unleashing anger that had been building for years, and triggering a torrent of allegations from other women in football of predatory behaviour by men.