The Spanish football federation (RFEF) has asked Uefa to suspend it from international competitions because of government interference over demands to remove its beleaguered president, Luis Rubiales, from office.
The shock move was widely seen as an attempt to silence some of Rubiales’ critics, including government ministers who have asked for his removal. Such a suspension would ban Spanish teams from competitions like the Champions League and could sway public opinion in favour of letting Rubiales, who is also a Uefa vice-president, remain in his post.
Football’s governing bodies have long-standing rules barring national governments from interfering with the running of the domestic federations. However, Uefa will not comply with the RFEF’s request for a sanction, a person familiar with the issue told the Associated Press on Monday.
Rubiales has faced a torrent of criticism from around the globe over his behaviour at the Women’s World Cup final, including kissing Spain player Jenni Hermoso on the lips without her consent during the on-field trophy ceremony. He was suspended from office on Saturday by world football’s governing body, Fifa, which has launched an investigation into his conduct.
The unprecedented request by the Spanish federation for a suspension appears to be an attempted power play against its critics. The RFEF may have been trying to provoke fans and powerful clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid, plus the men’s national team, into backing its efforts to save Rubiales’ job.
Spain’s top clubs are due to take part in Thursday’s Champions League group-stage draw being made by Uefa, and the men’s national team has Euro 2024 qualifying games on 8 and 12 September.
Fifa opened a disciplinary case against Rubiales on Thursday after taking control of the process as the Women’s World Cup organisers. The governing body did not invoke its version of the rules against government interference to protect Rubiales, leading the RFEF to send a letter to Uefa on Friday, urging them to act.
The Fifa suspension prevents Rubiales taking part in official business and having contact with other officials, including as part of Spain’s bid to co-host the 2030 World Cup with Portugal, Morocco and possibly Ukraine.
The Fifa disciplinary judge Jorge Palacio also ordered Rubiales and the federation not to contact Hermoso, who has said the federation pressured her to back Rubiales publicly. The RFEF are scheduled to have another emergency meeting on Monday, under the interim leadership of Pedro Rocha.