MADRID – Luis Rubiales, Spain’s suspended football federation president, said on Friday that he will continue to defend himself “to prove the truth”, after the country’s top sports court opened an investigation into his forcible kiss on the lips of player Jennifer Hermoso.
The Spanish government lodged a complaint against Rubiales through the state-run National Sports Council (CSD) a week ago, accusing him of “very serious” offences.
But in agreeing to take the case, the Administrative Tribunal for Sport (TAD) said it considered the behaviour in question “serious”, falling short of the government’s characterisation of Rubiales’ actions.
Had the court accepted the “very serious” qualification, it would have allowed the Sports Council to suspend the 46-year-old head of the Spanish football federation (RFEF) for the duration of the case.
Rubiales has already been suspended by world football’s governing body Fifa for 90 days, while it decides on disciplinary measures following the incident after Spain won the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney on Aug 20.
Sports Minister Miquel Iceta said CSD would still “ask the court to temporarily suspend Rubiales from his duties until the case against him has been definitively resolved”.
“The Sports Council and the government believe the RFEF president’s actions should be classified as a very serious abuse of authority which damage the image of Spanish football,” he told a news conference.
“We will not tolerate any lack of respect for women’s rights, nor will we back down on policies of equality between men and women in sport.”
Rubiales swiftly responded to the government pressure in a statement published by newspaper El Mundo, his first public words since his fiery defensive speech last week, in which he refused to resign.
“To all the good people in our country and beyond our borders, including those women who have really been attacked and who have my full support and understanding – this is not about gender, it is about truth,” he said.
The country’s top criminal court has also opened a preliminary investigation into the kiss on the grounds it could constitute “sexual assault”, which under Spanish law covers a wide array of offences from online abuse to rape.
Rubiales also came under fire for grabbing his crotch with both hands as he celebrated Spain’s win in Sydney while standing next to Spain’s Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter, Infanta Sofia.
The federation chief apologised for his behaviour but repeated his belief that the kiss was consensual – Hermoso has said it was not, and that she felt like a “victim of an assault”.