Iniesta, Laporta criticise Rubiales ahead of new suspension decision

At the presentation after the World Cup final Luis Rubiales hug defender Rocio Galvez while the next player in line, Jenni Hermoso, collects her winner's medal. Rubiales then kissed Hermoso on the lips drawing wide-spread criticism (FRANCK FIFE)
At the presentation after the World Cup final Luis Rubiales hug defender Rocio Galvez while the next player in line, Jenni Hermoso, collects her winner's medal. Rubiales then kissed Hermoso on the lips drawing wide-spread criticism (FRANCK FIFE)

Influential figures including Spanish football great Andres Iniesta and Barcelona president Joan Laporta continued to mount criticism on federation president Luis Rubiales on Sunday, ahead of a potential government sanction against the suspended Spain chief.

Rubiales, 46, was provisionally suspended by FIFA for 90 days on Saturday and the Spanish government are aiming to issue their own measures after he kissed midfielder Jenni Hermoso on the lips at the Women's World Cup final last Sunday.

Hermoso says the kiss was not consensual, despite Rubiales' claims to the contrary, and 81 players went on strike from the women's side in protest after the federation chief refused to resign.

Spain's Minister for Sport Miquel Iceta said the government would ask the country's sports court (TAD) to meet on Monday to decide if they would accept the government's complaint against Rubiales.

"If the TAD accepts the government's complaint, we will immediately suspend the president from his duties," he told daily newspaper El Pais.

A new sanction could last longer than FIFA's 90 days depending on how the court views the government's charges against Rubiales of "very serious offences", a possible "abuse of authority" and "acts that undermine sporting dignity or decorum".

"The only sanctions provided for by the Sports Law are to impose a fine or ineligibility for a period of between two and fifteen years," sports lawyer Toni Roca said in an interview on Spanish public television Sunday.

Iniesta said Rubiales' behaviour was "damaging the image" of Spanish football and "tarnished" the team's achievement of lifting the World Cup trophy for the first time.

"After what has happened this week I would like to convey my sadness as a person, as a father of three daughters, as a husband and as a footballer" at what has happened around "our football and around the Spanish women's national team", Iniesta wrote on his social networks.

"I believe that we cannot tolerate actions like the ones we have seen, which have tarnished such a great milestone as winning a World Cup," added the scorer of the goal against the Netherlands in the 2010 men's final, which earned Spain their first World Cup.

Hermoso said "at no time" did she consent to the kiss on the lips following the 1-0 win in the final against England in Sydney, which Rubiales described as "mutual, euphoric and consensual".

The majority of the women's team's coaching staff have also offered their resignations.

On Sunday, the Spanish football federation's (RFEF) Sexual Violence Protection delegate clarified an "investigation process" was underway and that a federation press release on Saturday, responding to Hermoso's union Futpro, was not from her committee.

"I can't imagine the feeling that all the national team players must be feeling right now seeing how they are not talking about the great tournament they had and the fantastic football they taught us all," continued former Barcelona star Iniesta.

"Instead, we have had to put up with a president who has clung on to his position, who has not admitted that his behaviour has been unacceptable and is damaging the image of our country and our football around the world.

"It's a shame that a beautiful story that so many players have built over so many years has been soiled."

- 'Convinced' -

Barcelona president Laporta said the football world was convinced Rubiales would step down last Friday, when he gave a defensive speech at an emergency RFEF meeting.

"Barcelona energetically, emphatically, unconditionally stands with the players and in this case, Jenni Hermoso, who experienced the situation," said Laporta in a video published by the Catalan club.

"We were all convinced Mr. Rubiales would resign at the (RFEF) assembly, because we thought he had no other choice, given the circumstances.

"That wasn't the case and ... we are showing full respect for FIFA's decision to provisionally suspend him."

Criticism for Rubiales has gone far beyond the world of football.

"I stand with Jenni Hermoso," American actress Natalie Portman posted on Instagram Sunday, among other dissenting voices.

In response to FIFA's suspension, the Spanish federation said Saturday Rubiales will defend himself "so the truth prevails and his complete innocence is proven".

The RFEF, under interim president Pedro Rocha, have called a new emergency meeting for Monday between presidents of the regional federations, a source close to the matter told AFP.