Luis Rubiales ‘forcefully kissed’ England player at Women’s World Cup

Rubiales ‘seemingly forcefully kissed Lucy Bronze on her face’ after the Women’s World Cup final, English FA’s Debbie Hewitt told FIFA’s disciplinary committee.

Luis Rubiales Spain
Spanish state prosecutors formally accused Luis Rubiales of alleged sexual assault and an act of coercion after he kissed Spain forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips after Spain won the FIFA Women's World Cup final 2023 in Australia [File: Manu Fernandez/AP Photo]

Disgraced former Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales “seemingly forcefully kissed” an England player on her face before kissing Jenni Hermoso without her consent at the Women’s World Cup, English Football Association chair Debbie Hewitt told FIFA’s disciplinary committee.

A FIFA report released on Wednesday said Rubiales, who was given a three-year ban in October, acted with “a sense of complete impunity” at the trophy ceremony after Spain’s 1-0 win over England in Sydney on August 20.

Hewitt was asked to give evidence and the report includes a summary of her submission, wherein Hewitt was quoted as saying she watched as Rubiales “cupped and stroked” the face of the England player, Laura Coombs.

Hewitt, who was standing next to Rubiales, found the gesture to be “slightly odd and then he seemingly forcefully kissed the English player Lucy Bronze on her face”, the report said, adding that she “felt deeply uncomfortable and embarrassed” at the way Rubiales greeted the Spanish players, which included tapping one on the bottom.

According to the report, she also noted Rubiales kissing Hermoso “fully and forcibly on the mouth”.

Rubiales responded in the report by accusing Hewitt of “hypocrisy” because she had also embraced players. He added that Hewitt’s portrayal of him as “some sort of creep is absolutely disgusting”.

The committee said it had considered a more severe sanction after his behaviour following the final.

“The committee wished to stress that it was tempted to impose more severe sanctions in view of the seriousness and gravity of the incidents at stake as well as of the profound negative impact that [Rubiales’s] actions had on the image of FIFA, women’s football and women’s sport in general,” it said.

The summary said that on several occasions, Rubiales violated the basic rules of decent conduct, used offensive gestures or behaved in a way that brought football into disrepute.

Rubiales also grabbed his genitals in celebration of Spain’s victory while standing in the VIP area.

‘Inexcusable and unacceptable’

Rubiales’s actions after Spain had been crowned world champions prompted a player rebellion and accusations of sexual assault.

“All incidents assessed collectively, appear to reveal a sense of complete impunity on the part of the respondent within the football environment,” the committee said in its written grounds of its decision.

The committee said it had considered factors such as the reputation of the game and “more importantly, on [Hermoso’s] mental state”.

“It was absolutely and categorically expected of him to maintain and embody the highest levels of professionalism, beyond the usual standards, especially at a moment where his country was at the apex level of women’s football.

“In this regard, the committee could not stress enough that – regardless of the emotional state he was in during and after the match – [Rubiales’s] behavior was inexcusable and unacceptable, especially considering his high rank within the football ecosystem at the time.”

Rubiales resigned as the president of Spanish football on September 10, having initially vowed not to stand down.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies