Spanish government can't ban Luis Rubiales after tribunal rules behaviour not 'very serious'

The Spanish government said it will ask for Rubiales to be suspended while the tribunal takes place, as Ellie Pitt reports from Madrid

The Spanish government will not be able to ban Luis Rubiales from working after a tribunal ruled his behaviour at the Women's World Cup final was "serious" misconduct - but not "very serious".

However, a government legal panel will open a case against the suspended football chief for two possible cases of serious misconduct.

The Administrative Court for Sports said there was no "abuse of authority" in Rubiales' actions after Spain's victory at the Women's World Cup, including kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips without consent.

Acting minister of culture and sport Miquel Iceta and the government's sports council, that is linked to the legal panel, announced the move on Friday.

Following the announcement, Rubiales made his first public statement since refusing to step down a week ago and claiming he was a victim of a “witch hunt” by “false feminists.”

Rubiales congratulates Salma Paralluelo after kissing Jenni Hermoso on the lips moments before. Credit: PA

He said in a lengthy statement that he has "suffered an unprecedented political and media lynching" on a world stage, following almost two weeks of calls for his resignation and widespread criticism.

“I committed some evident mistakes, for which I sincerely regret,” Rubiales said on Friday.

But he vowed to continue to defend himself "to prove the truth" and said he had participated in FIFA’s investigation as well as the federation’s own internal probe.

"In the name of feminism, no one should try to bring down a man - nor a woman - without a fair trial," he added in the statement.

What does the announcement mean?

Fifa has already suspended Rubiales - the president of the Spanish Football Federation and vice president of Uefa - for 90 days while it studies the case, so the Spanish decision will have little immediate effect.

The Fifa suspension can be extended for 45 days more.

But the Spanish government is looking to remove him independently and requested the tribunal in the hopes of gaining the power to do so.

However, the tribunal's ruling means Spain's Higher Sports Council (CSD) - an autonomous government agency - cannot directly ban him from working.

The announcement appears to reflect the view of the Spanish people, who remain divided on the issue, as Ellie Pitt explains

'Serious' vs 'very serious' misconduct

A legal panel will now study Rubiales' behaviour for two possible cases of "serious" misconduct.

The government had hoped the panel would recommend "very serious" misconduct - a category that would allow the CSD to ban him provisionally with a view to eventually declaring him unfit to hold the job.

Rubiales can be disqualified for up to two years if found guilty of serious misconduct.

The panel decision does put more pressure on Rubiales.

Protests have taken place in the streets of Madrid against Luis Rubiales. Credit: AP

Acting minister of culture and sport, Mr Iceta, said that while the government cannot directly suspend Rubiales, as was its intention, it will ask the legal panel to consider suspending him provisionally.

"We still believe that his acts should be considered very serious” faults, Mr Iceta said.

"When the eyes of the world were played on our players, his acts caused damage to our sport and our country that is difficult to repair.”

What happened?

After beating England 1-0 in the Women's World Cup Final, Spain's success has been tainted by the controversy surrounding Rubiales, who refused to quit his role as the country's FA president after kissing Hermoso after the match.

He also faced heavy criticism after he grabbed his crotch in celebration of the win while being stood metres away from Spain's Queen Letizia and her teenage daughter Sofia.

Prosecutors are now opening a sex abuse investigation into Rubiales.

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin described his behaviour as "inappropriate" - but called for Fifa's investigation to be allowed to run its course.

On Friday, the head coach of the Spain men's national team, Luis de la Fuente, asked for forgiveness after giving Rubiales a standing ovation when he said he would not resign during an emergency general assembly.

The player involved, Hermoso, has denied Rubiales’ claim that she consented to what he called the “mutual” kiss during the August 20 medal ceremony after the Spanish victory.

In a statement last Saturday, Hermoso said she considered herself the victim of abuse of power and accused the federation of trying to pressure her into supporting Rubiales.

The federation initially hit back by saying she was lying and it would take legal action against her. But following the FIFA suspension, the federation on Monday urged Rubiales to step down.

All of Spain's 23 World Cup winners, plus another 58 players, had said they will not represent their country until Rubiales has left his post.

His mother is now in hospital following a three day hunger strike, according to Spanish news outlets.

Angeles Bejar said her protest was over the "inhumane" treatment of her son and locked herself in a church in Motril.

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