MADRID – Luis Rubiales, the former president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) accused of sexual assault in Spain, has been banned from all football-related activities for three years, FIFA said on Monday.
World football’s governing body initially suspended Rubiales for three months after the allegedly non-consensual kiss he gave to Spanish player Jenni Hermoso after the Women’s World Cup final on August 20.
Rubiales said he will exercise his right to appeal and accused FIFA of not giving him the chance to defend himself.
“I will go to the last resort to ensure that justice is done and the truth shines through,” he said in a statement released on social media.
The incident turned into a sexism storm that made headlines worldwide and overshadowed Spain’s triumph. Rubiales is being investigated by Spain’s Supreme Court for alleged sexual abuse and coercion following a criminal complaint by Hermoso.
“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has banned Luis Rubiales… from all football-related activities at national and international level for three years after finding that he has acted in breach of Article 13 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code,” FIFA said in a statement.
Rubiales’ lawyers declined to comment on the decision.
The ‘Me Too’ moment in Spanish football had been underway for almost a decade, as female players sought to combat sexism and achieve equality with their male peers.
That included two locker room riots that ended the international careers of several players.
They finally brought about change thanks to an “exhaustive” month-long standoff that ended in September when the RFEF agreed to make “immediate and profound changes” to its structure, the players said.
However, the battle is not over yet, said Spain and Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati after being awarded the Ballon d’Or for the best player in the world.
“We must continue to fight for a fairer and more equal world,” she told reporters.
FIFA’s decision means that Rubiales, 46, can no longer run for president of the RFEF or the General Assembly under Spain’s new electoral regime for sports federations presented last month by the country’s National Sports Council (CSD) .
The CSD rules ensure that anyone convicted by the disciplinary bodies of national or international federations or sports tribunals is ineligible.
Rubiales resigned in September, saying his position at the RFEF had become untenable. He had initially promised not to resign, despite pressure from players, politicians and women’s groups.
During his court testimony in the assault case, Rubiales denied Hermoso’s allegations, prosecutors said. Rubiales has repeatedly said the kiss was consensual, while Hermoso says it was forced on her.
The investigating judge, who imposed a restraining order to prevent Rubiales from approaching Hermoso, also decided to expand the scope of the investigation to Jorge Vilda, the former coach of the Spanish team who was dismissed by interim RFEF president Pedro Rocha, ten days after FIFA suspended Rubiales. from his post.
The coach was widely criticized for repeatedly applauding Rubiales during an emergency meeting of the RFEF, during which the latter railed against “false feminism” and vowed not to resign.
“Mr Rubiales has today been informed of the terms of the decision of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee,” FIFA said. “The decision remains subject to a possible appeal to the FIFA Appeals Committee.”
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