The kiss seen around the world: Luis Rubiales banned from football for three years by FIFA
Sose Ebodaghe – 13 November 2023
Last Monday, former Spanish Football Federation president, Luis Rubiales, was banned from all football-related activities for three years by FIFA, after kissing Jenni Hermoso during Spain’s celebrations after the Women’s World Cup final. The ban is undoubtedly a severe one - so, how did we get here in the first place?
The kiss was immediately the topic of controversy. It was aired live, and in the aftermath, Hermoso stated that the kiss was non-consensual. She detailed that Rubiales’ conduct left her feeling ‘vulnerable’ and a victim of ‘aggression’, calling the kiss an “impulsive act, sexist, out of place, and without any type of consent from my part.” Following the backlash, Rubiales attempted to carry on his role, with the brief and initial support of Spain’s football federation, the RFEF. In August, the Federation released a statement challenging Hermoso’s claim by doubting her honesty, stating that any claims of a non-consensual kiss were Hermoso’s attempt at trying to ‘distort reality.’This statement was quickly retracted, but Rubiales refused to step down. He insisted that the kiss was ‘mutual’ and ‘consensual’, blaming ‘fake feminism’ for the vitriol he received.
Yet it wasn’t just the kiss that Rubiales was pulled up on. In fact, the kiss was one of three problematic incidents cited by FIFA. Another concerned Rubiales “grabbing his crotch/genitals in the VIP area” as another victory celebration with Spanish Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter Princess Sofia in the vicinity. The other incident involved Rubiales “carrying the Spanish player Athenea del Castillo over his shoulder during the post-match celebrations.”
When its investigation launched, FIFA suspended Rubiales for a provisional period of 90 days to avoid any witness tampering, which was then followed by Rubiales’ September resignation. Once he was no longer president, Hermoso – who claimed that her image has been tarnished by Rubiales’ actions - took legal action. In a hearing at Madrid’s national court for a criminal complaint of sexual assault and coercion, Hermoso was granted a restraining order against the former football chief.
FIFA’s investigation was focused on whether Luis Rubiales had breached Article 13 of the FIFA disciplinary code, to see whether there were violations of “basic rules of decent conduct” or behaviours that brought “the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute.” FIFA decided that Rubiales had violated Article 13, which is what has led to his three-year ban. Naturally, Rubiales, who has denied Hermoso’s accusations at every turn, was less than thrilled about this verdict, posting on social media that he “will go to the last resort to see that justice is done and that the truth shines through.” The football association has stated that the decision is “subject to a possible appeal”, which Rubiales tends to take full advantage of.
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