FIFA provisionally suspends Spanish soccer chief Rubiales amid kiss controversy

Luis Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Soccer Federation, on Saturday was "provisionally suspended" by the world soccer governing body FIFA pending the results of a disciplinary hearing. File Photo by J.P. Gandul/EPA-EFE

Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Soccer governing body FIFA on Saturday provisionally suspended Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales from office while it investigates a controversial kiss given to player Jennifer Hermoso.

FIFA said in a statement that Rubiales is suspended "from all football-related activities at national and international level" for an initial period of 90 days pending the results of a disciplinary hearing it opened Thursday.

The soccer body also ordered Rubiales to refrain, either through himself or third parties, from contacting or attempting to contact Hermoso or members of her entourage with the aim of "preserving, among other factors, the fundamental rights of the player."

FIFA likewise ordered members of the Spanish soccer federation, known as RFEF, from similarly contacting the player.

Rubiales announced Friday at the RFEF Ordinary General Assembly in Madrid that he was not going to resign in the wake of controversy generated by his kiss on Hermoso's mouth at the Gold Medal ceremony following Spain's victory in the Women's World Cup, which the player has claimed was "non-consensual" and "sexist."

"I will not resign, I will not resign, I will not resign," Rubiales repeated to the crowd, citing what he called "fake feminism" claiming that it was Hermoso who initiated the exchange and brought him "closer to her body."

He was caught on camera as he pulled the midfielder's head forward with both hands and kissed her on the lips during the ceremony.

Hermoso on Friday vehemently denied Rubiales' characterization of the event as "consensual," saying in a statement, "I felt vulnerable, the victim of an attack in an impulsive, sexist, out of place act and without any type of consent on my part. I was simply not respected."

Rubiales' actions triggered widespread outrage across the soccer world and larger Spanish society. Twenty-three Spanish women's team members and other players have announced they are boycotting the team until Rubiales resigns, calling for "real changes" in the organization's culture.

FIFA on Thursday said that Rubiales' actions "may constitute violations" of sections of its disciplinary code, which include "behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute."

Meanwhile on Saturday, the RFEF threatened to sue Hermoso, saying in a statement it intends "to take any necessary legal actions in defense of the honorability of the President of the RFEF."

Rubiales, it asserted, "has clearly and simply explained how the events, which have become a source of controversy and ridicule by wide sectors of society against him, transpired."

The organization posted a series of photographs from the ceremony it claims backs up the his claims the kiss was consensual.

"The evidence is conclusive," it said. "The President has not lied."