GENEVA – FIFA moved to block potential witness tampering by Luis Rubiales when its disciplinary committee suspended the now-ousted Spanish soccer president, the sport’s governing body said in a written verdict explaining the decision.
Rubiales was removed from office by FIFA on Aug. 26 in order to protect an investigation into his conduct at the Women’s World Cup final, including kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the awards ceremony.
The provisional ban was imposed “particularly so that potential testimonies could be given freely and without any type of pressure, fear or reprisals,” FIFA disciplinary judge Jorge Palacio wrote.
Only one of four possible reasons were needed by FIFA to sideline Rubiales during the ongoing disciplinary case, which could takes months before a final decision. The judge found all four criteria were met, according to the newly published verdict.
The reasons were “to ensure the proper administration of justice,” maintain sporting discipline, avoid irreparable harm, and reasons of “safety and security.”
FIFA did not initially suspend Rubiales when it opened a case on Aug. 24 into incidents that occurred four days earlier in Sydney, Australia.
The nine-page document said other incidents in the investigation include Rubiales grabbing his crotch while celebrating Spain’s 1-0 win over England and “carrying the Spanish player Athenea del Castillo over his shoulder during the post-match celebrations.”
Palacio, who is from Colombia, removed Rubiales from soccer duty because of actions by him and the Spanish soccer federation on Aug. 25-26. Hermoso was threatened by the federation with legal action and pressure was put on her and her entourage to speak favorably about the incident.
On Aug. 26, the federation had said: “We have to state that Ms. Jennifer Hermoso lies in every statement she makes against the president.”
Such conduct “cannot be tolerated and amounts to obstructing the aforementioned disciplinary proceedings,” the FIFA judge wrote.
Hermoso was contacted by FIFA to confirm her public statements and did so by an email reply the same day, the document said.
A 90-day ban on Rubiales with an option for 45 more days “will ensure that the ongoing disciplinary proceedings against him are conducted without any interference,” the judge wrote, adding it would create “a better and safer environment for all players in the Spanish national team.”
Rubiales resigned as federation president and as a UEFA vice president on Sept. 10 amid mounting pressure in Spain from lawmakers and players. One day later, UEFA thanked Rubiales for his service.
Rubiales is now under criminal investigation in Spain and a judge in Madrid issued a restraining order to keep him away from Hermoso, who plays for a club in Mexico. Rubiales denies wrongdoing.
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