FIFA Disciplinary Committee launches proceedings against Spanish Federation’s President

FIFA Disciplinary Committee launches proceedings against Spanish Federation’s President


On Sunday 20 August, the Women’s World Cup came to an end with the Spanish team triumphant over England in a 1 nil victory.  However, the Spanish women’s team historic win has had to share the spotlight with the Spanish Federation’s President – Luis Rubiales.  After the match during the medal ceremony, Mr Rubiales forcibly kissed one of the Spanish players on the lips.  This has drawn widespread criticism from Spain and beyond.

Initially Mr Rubiales was defiant and called those suggesting it was inappropriate ‘idiots’, however, he backtracked slightly with something of an apology thereafter. However, the matter has not been brought to a close quite as quickly as he would have hoped.  The Spanish Prime Minister has weighed in on the issue and an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Spanish Federation took please on Friday 25 August in relation to Mr Rubiales’ behaviour.  Further his behaviour has now lead to Mr Rubiales being subject to FIFA disciplinary proceedings.

What are the FIFA Disciplinary Committee considering?

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee have opened disciplinary proceedings against Mr Rubiales on the basis of the events that occurred during the final of the Women’s World Cup.  They have noted that the events may constitute violations of Article 13 paragraphs 1 and 2 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (the ‘Code’).

What does Article 13 of the Code refer to?

Article 13 of the Code looks at ‘Offensive behaviour and violations of the principles of fair play’.  Paragraph 1 states:

“Associations and clubs, as well as their players, officials and any other member and/or person carrying out a function on their behalf, must respect the Laws of the Game, as well as the FIFA Statutes and FIFA’s regulations, directives, guidelines, circulars and decisions, and comply with the principles of fair play, loyalty and integrity.”

Paragraph 2 goes on to give examples of acts which may be subject to disciplinary measures and includes:

  • Violating the basic rules of decent conduct;
  • Insulting a natural or legal person in any way;
  • Behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or football into disrepute.

What kind of sanctions can the FIFA Disciplinary Committee impose?           

The disciplinary sanctions that may be imposed on individuals vary widely and range from warnings and reprimands or fines to suspension from the sport.

What next for Rubiales?

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has not indicated a timeline for the progression of this matter.  However there is increasing pressure from various parties.  The Spanish Federation has its own Code of Ethics of which Mr Rubiales may well also have fallen foul.

Nonetheless, so far, Mr Rubiales has resisted pressure to resign after it was expected that he would do so.  Instead, he doubled down on his allegations and suggested that the player had consented to the kiss.

The events at the EGM which took place served to underline how important it is to understand (amongst others) equality issues and dealing with them properly.  Members of the Spanish Federation gave Mr Rubiales a standing ovation for his defiant speech.  This started a chain of events including:

  • the Spanish women’s team saying they would not play for Spain until matters were resolved;
  • the Spanish Federation initially backing Mr Rubiales and threatening legal action against the player involved, which they later retracted;
  • a number of the Spanish women’s back room staff resigning – with the exception of the Spanish coach, who in fact had his contract extended by Mr Rubiales;
  • Spanish football clubs – admittedly to varying degrees – condemning the behaviour of the Mr Rubiales and the Spanish Federation;
  • the Spanish’s men’s football team speaking out in solidarity with the women’s team.

This is not to forget Mr Rubiales’ mother locking herself in a church on hunger strike until the ‘witch hunt’ against her son was over.

FIFA also suspended Mr Rubiales for 90 days.  Interestingly, and much more unusually, the ban also prevented him from contacting the player in any way or through any means.  His mother began her hunger strike after this ban, and urged that the player should tell the truth.

There was also a case before the Spanish sporting court, however, they found that his behaviour was ‘serious’ rather than ‘very serious’ under the relevant rules which means that there could be no immediate suspension in Spain, but he could still be banned for up to two years from any involvement in football.

Even if he resigns, the situation highlights the importance of sporting institutions taking these matters seriously.  From both a FIFA and Spanish Federation perspective, organisations have to take action on this type of matter and carry out a process.  The Spanish Federation’s actions – both before and after the EGM – have left many calling for more profound change internally.  The situation is all the more frustrating when the Spanish Federation and its players should be celebrating the success of the Women’s World Cup and the Spanish win.

For further information on this topic, please contact Laura Graham at

Laura Graham
Author: Laura Graham