FIFA last night suspended Spanish football boss Luis Rubiales just hours after his federation appeared to blame World Cup winner Jenni Hermoso for being kissed by him.
In a widely condemned statement, Spain’s football federation yesterday published a string of photographs that it suggested showed Ms Hermoso instigating a clinch with Mr Rubiales during the medal ceremony and consenting to being kissed.
It threatened to sue Ms Hermoso and branded her claims about Mr Rubiales’ conduct during last weekend’s final in Sydney as ‘lies’. It later deleted the statement.
Amid a sexism scandal that has overshadowed Spain’s World Cup triumph, FIFA dramatically intervened yesterday and barred Mr Rubiales from all ‘football-related activities at national and international level’ for 90 days.
The controversy erupted last Sunday when Mr Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), kissed Ms Hermoso, Spain’s 33-year-old forward, on the lips at the final’s medal ceremony in Sydney.
Rubiales, president of the Spanish FA, kissed Hermoso on the mouth after the World Cup final
None of the photos shared by the RFEF actually showed the kiss on the lips at the centre of the row
The Spanish FA said that as Herboso had listed Rubiales off the ground during the celebration, he did not lie about having her consent to kiss her – sparking a wide backlash online
The Spanish FA yesterday released four pictures which, in a bizarre statement, they claimed vindicated Rubiales
The fourth picture released by the Spanish FA appeared to show the under-fire football chief in mid-air
Footage also emerged of him grabbing his crotch while standing near Queen Letizia of Spain and her 16-year-old daughter Infanta Sofia, and also lifting Athenea del Castillo over his shoulder during the celebrations.
During a defiant press conference on Friday, Mr Rubiales claimed he asked Ms Hermoso for ‘a little peck’ after she ‘lifted me up’. To the applause of other football bosses, Rubiales repeatedly shouted: ‘I will not resign!’
His rant provoked Ms Hermoso to issue her own statement in which she stressed that ‘at no time did I consent to the kiss that he gave me’. And in an extraordinary mutiny, 23 players of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad, as well as 32 other squad members, said they will not play for their country again while Rubiales remained in charge.
Eleven members of Spain’s backroom staff resigned after they were pressured into supporting Mr Rubiales. Some of the female staff were forced to sit in the front row during his address on Friday. The staff said they were ‘in full support’ of Ms Hermoso, adding: ‘We also want to state the uncomfortableness we felt having been obligated to assist the general assembly.’
The RFEF released an 800-word statement and four images in the early hours of yesterday morning that it bizarrely claimed demonstrated that Mr Rubiales’ account was ‘absolutely true’ – despite the fact the images did not show the kiss at all.
In a description accompanying one of the photos, the federation claimed that Mr Rubiales was forced to hold on to Ms Hermoso ‘so as not to fall’ and that ‘it is evident that the arching of the player’s body corresponds to the lifting force of Mr President’.
Jenni Hermoso released a lengthy statement on social media in response to the incident
‘The feet of Mr President are ostensibly raised off the ground as a result of the player’s action,’ it added. ‘The evidence is conclusive. Mr President has not lied.
‘The RFEF and Mr President will demonstrate each of the lies that are spread either by someone on behalf of the player or, if applicable, by the player herself.’
Astonishingly, the federation threatened legal action, saying that playing for the national team ‘is an obligation for all members of the federation’.
Tracey Crouch MP, the former sports minister, said she was ‘horrified’ by the Spanish federation’s statement. ‘We were supposed to be talking about how great Spain’s victory was for women’s football but instead it is this,’ she wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
BBC Sport presenter Emma Louise Jones said: ‘Imagine having someone kiss you on the lips without consent. Then being told a governing body are taking legal action over your ‘lies’.’
Football journalist Henry Winter described the RFEF’s defence as ‘an absolute disaster class’. ‘His kiss was creepy, offensive and non-consensual,’ he added.
FIFA announced that Jorge Ivan Palacio, the chairman of its disciplinary committee, had decided to ‘provisionally suspend’ Mr Rubiales. It also ordered him and the RFEF not to contact Ms Hermoso.
‘Fifa reiterates its absolute commitment to respect the integrity of all persons and therefore condemns with the utmost vigour any behaviour to the contrary,’ it added.
In a joint statement on Friday night, the Lionesses backed the Spain team and said: ‘Abuse is abuse and we have all seen the truth.’
Footage also emerged last week of Spain’s head coach Jorge Vilda appearing to touch a female staff member inappropriately during the final. Video footage taken seconds after Olga Carmona’s 29th-minute goal shows the Spanish staff celebrating – and Mr Vilda’s left hand appearing to linger on a female staff member’s breast.
Mr Rubiales will fight the accusations against him, the RFEF said last night.
In an extraordinary statement released today, the crisis-ridden organisation confirmed that the controversial Rubiales is now barred from all ‘football-related activities at national and international level’ for 90 days.
Rubiales has also been banned from making any contact with Hermoso and ‘her close environment’, after she alleged the kiss on Sunday was an ‘impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act’, and that she had been placed under ‘continuous pressure’ to defend him.
Hermoso, 33, said through the Spanish players’ union FUTPRO that she ‘felt vulnerable’ after Rubiales kissed her following Spain’s 1-0 victory over England on Sunday.
The moment, in which Rubiales grabbed both sides of her head and pulled her in to kiss her on the lips, was caught on live TV and followed another incident in which the chief appeared to grab his crotch in the presence of Spanish Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter.
Hermoso released an emotional statement on Friday after Rubiales claimed the kiss was consensual, alluding to a stream of incidents against players off the pitch.
She added: ‘We as a team do not deserve such a manipulative, hostile and controlling culture.’
A statement released by union FUTPRO, which was signed by 56 players plus the entire 23-strong World Cup winning squad, stated they will all refuse to play for Spain until Rubiales is sacked.
They were followed by eleven members of the coaching squad on Saturday, who released their own statement in support of the players.
Hermoso, 33, said through the Spanish players’ union FUTPRO that she ‘felt vulnerable’ after Rubiales kissed her following Spain’s 1-0 victory over England on Sunday
The Spanish FA has released an extraordinary defence of Luis Rubiales following Jenni Hermoso’s statement on Friday
Amid the chaos, Gary Lineker, a former England and Barcelona player, summed up much of the public reaction
They said: ‘The undersigned express their firmest and most emphatic condemnation of the conduct shown by the president of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Manuel Rubiales Béjar, towards the player of the National Women’s National Team, Jennifer Hermoso.
‘After the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, which took place on August 25, 2023, in which the president of the RFEF did not present his resignation and in which he offered a story that in no way reflects what was felt by the aforementioned player, who has expressly stated that she felt like a ‘victim of aggression’, this part of the Technical Team supports the player Jennifer Hermoso, endorsing the version offered by her.
‘Adding the inconvenience of having to necessarily attend the aforementioned assembly of August 25, at which, in addition, an event that was especially hurtful to this technical body took place, since several of the female members of the technical staff were forced to stand in the front row, exposing their image [as if they] shared the view of the president of the RFEF.’
Shortly afterwards the manager of Spain’s men’s team, Luis de la Fuente, also commented on the scandal as he condemned Rubiales.
In a statement, he criticised ‘the wrong and misplaced behaviour of the president of the RFEF’, adding: ‘The events involved did not respect the minimum protocol that must be followed in these celebratory acts, and are not edifying or appropriate for a person who was representing all of Spanish football.’
Even Rubiales’ closest ally, women’s team coach Jorge Vilda, admitted the kiss was ‘unacceptable and does not reflect at all the principles and values that I defend in my life, in sport in general and in football in particular.’
But he added Rubiales had acknowledged the behaviour was inappropriate and remains in post.
Amid the chaos, Gary Lineker, a former England and Barcelona player, summed up much of the public reaction to FIFA’s suspension, posting in Spanish on X, formerly known as Twitter: ‘Por fin! (At last).’
Following the reported resignation of 11 RFEF members he later added: ‘Could the RFEF possibly have handled this more wretchedly? A masterclass in turning a triumph into a disaster. Utter shambles!’
Rubiales had claimed he asked permission to kiss Hermoso, who was said to have responded to say he could give her ‘a little peck’.
‘I want to clarify that, as 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 raise the president. I do not tolerate that my word is questioned, much less that words are invented that I have not said,’ Hermoso said.
In a statement on Friday, Hermoso said: ‘I feel obliged to report that Mr Luis Rubiales’ words explaining the unfortunate incident are categorically false and part of the manipulative culture that he himself has generated.
‘I want to make it clear that at no time did the conversation wo which Mr Luis Rubiales refers to in his address take place, and, above all, was his kiss ever consensual.
‘I want to reiterate as I did before that I did not like this incident.
‘The situation shocked me given the celebrations that were taking place at the moment, and with the passage of time and after delving a little deeper into those initial feelings, I feel the need to report this incident because I believe that no person, in any work, sports or social setting should be a victim of these types of non-consensual behaviours.
‘I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part.
‘Simply put, I was not respected.’
She went on to accuse the Spanish FA of putting her under ‘continuous pressure’ to ‘make a joint statement to alleviate the pressure on the president’ as outrage about the kiss grew.
Rubiales blew kisses to the audience after insisting he would not step down from his position
England’s Lionesses condemned the ‘unacceptable actions’ of Rubiales and called the Spanish FA ‘sexist and patriarchal’
Jenni Hermoso’s emotional statement in full
‘After achieving one of the most important objectives of my sports career and after a few days of reflection, I want to sincerely thank my teammates, fans, followers, media and everyone who has made this dream come true; your work and unconditional support were a fundamental part of winning the World Cup.
‘Sadly, the ability to celebrate that has been cut short. While it is true that I do not want to interfere with the multiple ongoing legal processes, I feel obliged to report that Mr Luis Rubiales’ words explaining the unfortunate incident are categorically false and part of the manipulative culture that he himself has generated.
‘I want to make it clear that at no time did the conversation wo which Mr Luis Rubiales refers to in his address take place, and, above all, was his kiss ever consensual. I want to reiterate as I did before that I did not like this incident.
‘The situation shocked me given the celebrations that were taking place at the moment, and with the passage of time and after delving a little deeper into those initial feelings, I feel the need to report this incident because I believe that no person, in any work, sports or social setting should be a victim of these types of non-consensual behaviours. I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part.
‘Simply put, I was not respected.
‘I was asked to make a joint statement to alleviate the pressure on the president, but at that moment all I had in mind was to enjoy the historic milestone achieved with my teammates. For this reason, I always conveyed to the RFEF and its various interlocutors, as well as to media and people I trust, that I would not make any individual or joint statements on this matter, as I understood that doing so would take even more prominence away from such a special moment for my teammates and me.
‘Despite my decision, I must state that I have been under continuous pressure to make a statement that could justify Mr Luis Rubiales’ actions. Not only that, but in different ways and through different people, the RFEF has pressured my surroundings (family, friends, teammates, etc) to give a testimony that had little or nothing to do with my feelings.
‘It is not up to me to evaluate communication and integrity practices, but I am sure that as the World Champions, we as a team do not deserve such a manipulative, hostile, and controlling culture. These types of incidents add to a long list of situations that the players have been denouncing in recent years. This incident, one in which I have been involved, is the final straw and what everyone has been able to witness on live television during the celebration also comes with attitudes like the one we saw the morning and have been part of our team’s daily life for years.
‘For all these reasons, I want to reinforce the position I took from the beginning, considering that I do not have to support the person who has committed this actionn against my will, without respecting me, at a historic moment for me and for women’s sports in this country. Under no circumstances can it be my responsibility to bear the consequences of conveying something I do not believe in, which is why I have refused the pressures received.
‘I have ZERO TOLERANCE for these behaviours.
‘I want to conclude by making it very clear that while it is I who is expressing these words, it is all the players from Spain and around the world who have given me the strength to come out with this statement. In the face of such a display of disrespect and inability to recognise one’s mistakes and take responsibility, I state here and now to everyone of my decision not to play for the National Team again while the current leaders remain.
‘Thank you all for the messages of support and encouraging words received. I know I am not alone, and thanks to all of you, we will push forward more united than ever. I leave this matter in the hands of TMJ and FUTPRO, and the people I trust. They will continued working on the next necessary steps.
Hermoso also claimed her friends, family and team-mates have also been pressured, with team-mates also asked by the RFEF to make statements about the incident.
Rubiales claimed the kiss was ‘consensual’ in a speech on Friday. He said: ‘It was a spontaneous kiss. Mutual, euphoric and consensual. That’s the key. A consensual ‘peck’ is enough to get me out of here?
‘Jenni was the one who lifted me up. I told her to ‘forget about the penalty [that Mary Earps saved]’ and I said to her ‘a little peck?’ and she said ‘OK’.’
Hermoso said this claim was ‘categorically false and part of the manipulative culture that he has generated.’
She continued: ‘I am sure that as the World Champions, we as a team do not deserve such a manipulative, hostile, and controlling culture.
‘These types of incidents add to a long list of situations that the players have been denouncing in recent years.
‘This incident, one in which I have been involved, is the final straw and what everyone has been able to witness on live television during the celebration also comes with attitudes like the one we saw the morning and have been part of our team’s daily life for years.’
On Friday, Rubiales launched a stunning tirade as he blamed ‘false feminism’ for a ‘social murder’ against him in a speech at a meeting where he was expected to step down.
England’s Lionesses also released a statement condemning Rubiales , saying: ‘Unacceptable actions allowed to happen by a sexist and patriarchal organisation’
Rubiales refused to quit as president during the Spanish FA’s extraordinary meeting, despite the global backlash at his actions in the immediate aftermath of Spain’s 1-0 triumph over England.
His defiance sparked a furious response from members of the Spanish women’s team, as well as current and former players on the men’s national side.
The president of Spain’s women’s league said she believes Rubiales’ actions will mark the end of his career.
Beatriz Alvarez’s league has also filed an official complaint against Rubiales to the Spanish government this week.
‘Luis Rubiales is finished. He has dug his own grave with his acts and his words,’ she said.
‘Whether it is because of the action of FIFA or the Spanish government, I am sure that Luis Rubiales won’t spend another minute as president of the Spanish federation.’
England’s Lionesses also released a statement condemning Rubiales, saying: ‘Unacceptable actions allowed to happen by a sexist and patriarchal organisation.
‘Abuse is abuse and we have all seen the truth. The behaviour of those who think they are invincible must not be tolerated and people shouldn’t take any convincing to take action against any form of harassment.
‘We stand with you, Jenni Hermoso.’
Alexis Putellas, a two-time Ballon d’Or winner, and World Cup-winning team-mates Cata Coll, Aitana Bonmati and Irene Paredes have all spoken out publicly in defence of Hermoso.
Cata Coll, Spain’s goalkeeper in the final, wrote: ‘What a pity it gives me that 23 soccer players are not the protagonists… it’s over! With you to death Jenni Hermoso’.
Their fellow Spanish player, Patricia Guijarro, who was one of 15 players to voice opposition to head coach Jorge Vilda last year and was not picked for the World Cup, tweeted: ‘It’s over. With you @jennihermoso. Unfortunate to reach this point to believe that the complaints from months ago were real.’
Barcelona and Norway player Caroline Hansen said: ‘@jennihermoso with you! This is all lies. We all see what really happened’.
Swiss star and Barcelona player Ana-Maria Crnogorčević took a more vehement approach: ‘I’m freaking out.. it’s over. F*** this bulls**t, f**k all this f**king lies. This is insane… With you Jenni always.’
Rubiales sparked more outrage after footage emerged of him grabbing his crotch while celebrating Spain’s win in the vicinity of Spanish Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter
Rubiales also carried Spanish player Athenea del Castillo Beivide during the celebrations
Rubiales (right) pictured with Spain’s Queen Letizia and FIFA president Gianni Infantino after their 1-0 win over England in last Sunday’s final
Men’s national team striker Borja Iglesias has also quit playing for his country in protest while Rubiales remains in post.
The 30-year-old Real Betis full-back, who has been capped twice by Spain, said: ‘Wearing the Spanish National Team shirt is one of the greatest things that has happened to me in my career.
‘I don’t know if at some point I will be an option again, but I have made the decision not to return to the National Team until things change and this type of act does not go unpunished.’
FIFA have opened an investigation into Rubiales’ conduct. As well as the kiss, the Spanish FA chief appeared to grab his crotch while near to the Queen of Spain and her under-age daughter.
Rubiales is a vice-president of UEFA, a position that commands a £214,000-per-year salary. He remains in the role and could keep it even if he is forced out as head of the Spanish FA.
UEFA have so far refused to comment on the actions of Rubiales.
THE SPANISH FA’S ATTEMPT TO BLAME HERMOSO FOR ‘KISS-GATE’
The RFEF argue that Rubiales’ arms are only loosely on Hermoso’s back in this photo, meaning he could ‘exert no force’, and that his heels are raised
The above image shows Rubiales smiling as he embraces Hermoso, with one hand on top of her head and the other on her back.
In explanation, the RFEF states: ‘Ms. Jennifer Hermoso, with her arms, grabs the RFEF President from behind, while Mr. President has his arms loose on the upper part of the player’s back. Therefore, no force could exert.
‘You can see how Mr. President has the heels of his feet raised slightly.’
Here, the RFEF maintains that Hermoso keeps her arms around the president and that his heels are raised. Only one of Hermoso’s arms and one of Rubiales’ feet are visible
In the second image, Rubiales’ upper arm has moved lower down Hermoso’s head.
The RFEF explains: ‘Ms. Jennifer Hermoso keeps her arms around Mr. President’s back. Mr. President keeps his arms on top of the player’s body.
‘It is verified how Mr. President already has much higher heels.’
Only one of Rubiales’ feet is visible in the photo.
The RFEF writes that ‘Mr. President’s feet are clearly and manifestly lifted off the ground as a result of the action of force carried out by the player’
This third image, with Rubiales lifted off the ground, is where the RFEF’s statement ramps up in vehemence and attributes responsibility to Hermoso.
The RFEF states: ‘Mrs. Jennifer Hermoso continues to keep her arms in the same position as the president’s body while the president must bring his arms closer to the player’s back as a result of having lifted him off the ground and to maintain balance.
‘The inclination of the back of Mrs. Jennifer Hermoso that occurs when she is performing an action of force is indisputable.
‘Mr. President’s feet are clearly and manifestly lifted off the ground as a result of the action of force carried out by the player.’
The RFEF maintains its stance in the final photo, where Rubiales is still lifted off the ground
For this final photo provided, the RFEF explains: ‘Mrs. Jennifer Hermoso continues to keep her arms in the same position as the president’s body while the president must continue to hold on to the players so as not to fall and it is evident that the arching of the player’s body corresponds to the lifting force of Mr. President you are performing.
‘The feet of Mr. President are ostensibly raised off the ground as a result of the player’s action.