The Spanish government has suffered a setback in its attempts to remove beleaguered soccer chief Luis Rubiales from his post over the unwanted kiss he gave to Spain star Jennifer Hermoso.
Spain’s Court of Arbitration in Sport (TAD) on Friday agreed to open a case against Rubiales but rejected the government’s argument that his offenses were “very serious,” preventing his immediate suspension and forcing ministers to ask the tribunal to do it instead.
Minister of Culture and Sport Miquel Iceta said at a press conference on Friday that he will submit a separate complaint to TAD and request for Rubiales to be removed from his post until the investigation is resolved.
This development comes as pressure continues to mount on Rubiales ever since he gave an unwanted kiss to Hermoso after Spain won the Women’s World Cup on August 20.
Rubiales was suspended by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, from all football-related activities for 90 days on Saturday, though he could also eventually face suspension by the government’s High Council of Sport (CSD).
A government statement released on Tuesday said that Rubiales displayed “unacceptable behavior” at the World Cup final and called his actions “very serious” violations of the country’s Law of Sport, something which TAD has now rejected.
Rubiales on Friday expressed regret about his actions, but also lashed out against a “manufactured campaign” against him, insisting that he had been treated unfairly.
“Last August 20th I made some obvious mistakes, which I regret sincerely, from the heart. It is true that for such errors I have asked for forgiveness,” he said in a statement released on social media and widely reported by the Spanish press.
“I have learned that no matter how great the joy and deep the emotion, even when A WORLD CUP IS WON, sports leaders must be required to exhibit exemplary behavior, and mine wasn’t,” he said, adding he is apologizing to players, the federation, fans and anyone who may have been offended by his actions.
Rubiales has previously admitted that he made a mistake kissing Hermoso but said the act was consensual – a claim that Hermoso has squarely rejected.
In a statement last Friday, the soccer champion said that at no point did she consent to a kiss, writing on social media: “I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part.”
Hermoso also said the RFEF president’s explanation of the incident was “categorically” false, adding: “I want to reiterate as I did before that I did not like this incident.”
Pressure on Rubiales to step down from his position as RFEF president only intensified after he dramatically refused to do so during a speech at the federation’s Extraordinary General Assembly last Friday, vowing to “fight to the end.”
Earlier this week, all 19 of the Spanish federation’s regional presidents called for Rubiales to resign while also offering unanimous support for interim president Pedro Rocha, who stepped into the role following Rubiales’ suspension by FIFA.