The disciplinary committee of FIFA on Saturday provisionally suspended Spanish FA chief Luis Rubiales for 90 days over the World Cup final kiss controversy. However, Rubiales denied the charges and said he would defend himself in competent bodies.
FIFA's ruling comes six days after Rubiales was accused of becoming a national embarrassment in front of a global audience at the final in Sydney, Australia overshadowing the enormous accomplishment of Spain women's first World Cup title.
Along with kissing star player Jenni Hermoso, who said she did not give her consent, Rubiales also grabbed his crotch in a lewd victory gesture with Spain's Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter Sofia nearby.
FIFA said Rubiales is removed from soccer duties for 90 days pending the disciplinary proceedings opened against him Thursday.
Rubiales refused to resign from his soccer presidency on Friday at an emergency meeting of the Spanish soccer federation's general assembly when he had been expected to leave under intense pressure from the Spanish government, women players plus soccer clubs and officials.
FIFA has given no timetable for a ruling by its disciplinary panel. The body's disciplinary judges can impose sanctions on individuals ranging from warnings and fines to suspensions from the sport.
The move by FIFA came after the Spanish federation had even threatened action against Hermoso for refusing to accept Rubiales's version of the kiss that happened at the on-field medal and trophy presentation after Spain's 1-0 win against England last Sunday.
The suspension should prevent Rubiales working in soccer or having contact with other officials.
FIFA disciplinary judge Jorge Palacio also intervened on Saturday to protect the "fundamental rights" of Hermoso and the integrity of the disciplinary case.
Palacio, a Colombian lawyer and former member of its constitutional court who has worked in women's rights, ordered Rubiales "to refrain, through himself or third parties, from contacting or attempting to contact the professional player of the Spanish national football team Ms Jennifer Hermoso or her close environment," FIFA said in a statement.
"Likewise, the RFEF (Spanish soccer federation) and its officials or employees, directly or through third parties, are ordered to refrain from contacting the professional player of the Spanish national team Ms Jennifer Hermoso and her close environment," FIFA said.
In a complex situation, Spain's government via its Higher Council for Sports filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that Rubiales violated the country's sports laws through sexist acts. If found guilty by the Spanish court, Rubiales could be ruled unfit to hold office.
Rubiales accused Hermoso of having consented to a "mutual" kiss on the lips. He painted himself as the victim of a "witch hunt" by "false feminists”.
Hermoso responded in two statements, one through her players' union and one in her name only, that Rubiales was lying and that she had felt intimidated.
All 22 of her Spain teammates, along with more than 50 other players, said in the statement by the players' union that they would not play for Spain again as long as Rubiales stayed in charge. It was not immediately clear whether this situation has now changed after FIFA's latest intervention.
The federation fired back with its own statement, saying that Rubiales was telling the truth and that it would seek legal action against Hermoso. Messages of support for Hermoso poured in from the world of women's soccer, and beyond.
In a statement issued by the Spanish Soccer Federation Rubiales stated that he will legally defend himself in the competent bodies. “He fully trusts FIFA and reiterates that, in this way, he is given the opportunity to begin his defence so that the truth prevails and his complete innocence is proven," it said.
(With PTI inputs.)