UEFA head says it is illogical to prosecute Rubiales for kiss

September 19, 2023
Aleksander Ceferin
Aleksander Ceferin

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP):

Prosecuting Spanish football official Luis Rubiales for kissing a Women's World Cup-winning player on the lips without her consent seems "completely illogical", UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has suggested.

Spanish state prosecutors are investigating Jenni Hermoso's accusations against Rubiales of sexual assault for the kiss at the August 20 final and coercion for pressuring her to defend him.

A restraining order was issued Friday by a judge in Madrid that prohibits Rubiales from being within 200 metres (656 feet) of Hermoso. Rubiales denied both accusations at the closed-door hearing.

Ceferin, a criminal defence lawyer before being elected UEFA president in 2016, said in an interview published Sunday in his native Slovenia that "what Rubiales did was inappropriate and not understandable".

"But, when I read it was deemed as a felony - as a lawyer, that seems completely illogical," Ceferin told Slovenian media outlet N1.

Rubiales faced a torrent of criticism from the Spanish government and football circles. It was fuelled partly by his defiance and refusal to resign as Spanish Football Federation president weeks after the incident, even after world football body FIFA opened an investigation and suspended him.

A sexual consent law passed in Spain last year eliminated the difference between "sexual harassment" and "sexual assault". If Rubiales is sent to trial, he could face a fine or a prison sentence of one to four years, if found guilty of sexual assault.

Ceferin said his advice in conversations with Rubiales had been to resign. On September 10, three weeks after Spain's women became world champions, Rubiales stepped down as president of the federation and vice-president of UEFA.

One day later, UEFA published its first public statement about Rubiales since the final, in which it noted his resignation - and the "public discourse" about his actions - before thanking him for his years of service to European football.

Ceferin's interview with N1 was his second public comment on the scandal in the past month. The first was 10 days after the final, telling the French daily L'Equipe that the conduct was inappropriate and UEFA must do more for women players.

"You (journalists) brought this story to this level of importance through the media," Ceferin told the N1 reporter.

Ceferin added there had been talks about a code of conduct to set limits on acceptable behaviour in women's football. He also expected UEFA to create more places for women officials in the organisation.

Other Sports Stories