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Corporate sponsors are distancing themselves from Spain’s football chief Luis Rubiales, who has been suspended from his job after he forcibly kissed a female player during last weekend’s World Cup final medal ceremony.
Rubiales, head of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, has resisted stepping down despite public outrage after he grabbed the head of top player Jenni Hermoso and kissed her on the lips as players received their medals after Spain’s first World Cup win.
She later said the kiss was not consensual, something Rubiales disputes. He has threatened legal action against her.
Energy group Iberdrola and airline Iberia, sponsors of the Spanish women’s football team, said they condemned actions that threatened the dignity of women.
An official at Spanish group Iberdrola, one of Europe’s biggest energy companies, said any attitude that “deviates from or goes against” the defence of women’s rights and dignity “has no place in the world of sport or in society”.
Iberia, Spain’s flagship national carrier, said: “When offensive situations occur, unbecoming of a developed, modern and egalitarian society such as Spain’s, Iberia supports the appropriate measures that need to be taken to preserve the rights and dignity of sportsmen and sportswomen.”
Cervezas Victoria, a beer manufacturer, said it “deeply regrets the controversy that has arisen and we express our full support for the players and the values [and] commitment that they have shown”.
The companies did not raise the possibility of cutting ties with the football association or the national team.
Rubiales has been suspended from all football-related activities for three months by Fifa, global football’s governing body.
The Spanish football association said its deputy vice-president Pedro Rocha Junco would become interim president and announced an “extraordinary and urgent” meeting of its regional chiefs on Monday to discuss the situation.
The football association said in a statement that Rubiales “has full confidence in Fifa and reiterates that he [will] begin his defence so that the truth prevails and his complete innocence is proven”.
The managers of Spain’s women’s and men’s national teams have turned against Rubiales, issuing statements condemning his behaviour even though they had applauded him at an event on Friday where he defied expectations that he would resign and said he was a victim of “false feminism”.
Jorge Vilda, manager of Spain’s women’s team, said he deeply regretted that their victory had “been harmed by the improper behaviour of our leader until now, Luis Rubiales, which he himself has acknowledged”.
Eleven of Vilda’s technical staff have resigned in protest over the incident and Rubiales’ refusal to step down.
Luis de la Fuente, manager of Spain’s men’s team, condemned Rubiales’ “wrong and inappropriate behaviour”, adding that it was “neither edifying nor appropriate for a person who was representing the whole of Spanish football”.
In a sign of divisions inside the football association, its official in charge of preventing sexual violence released a statement saying her committee did not endorse Rubiales’ latest comments and was investigating the kiss.
After the Fifa move, the Spanish government said it would continue to pursue a complaint over “serious misconduct” it had filed against Rubiales with a national sports tribunal.