Luis Rubiales ‘inappropriately touched’ England players on the same podium that he allegedly sexually assaulted Jenni Hermoso after the Women’s World Cup final, according to the Football Association chair.
Rubiales, the disgraced former president of Spain’s FA (the RFEF), responded by calling Debbie Hewitt a “hypocrite” and accused her of doing her position as FA chair a “disservice”. The claims have been revealed among new documents released by the world governing body Fifa to support their disciplinary panel’s decision to ban Rubiales from any involvement in football for three years.
Hewitt was asked to testify as a witness in the Fifa disciplinary committee’s case against Rubiales, together with the president of New Zealand’s FA, with both having been standing nearby to the Spaniard during the medal ceremony after the final in Sydney on August 20. Hewitt stood directly next to Rubiales on the podium.
In her statement submitted to Fifa’s panel, Hewitt brands Rubiales’s tone of voice towards match stewards and Fifa staff as “unpleasant and unnecessarily aggressive”, before going on to detail two specific accusations about Rubiales’s actions towards England players Lucy Bronze and Laura Coombs.
Hewitt says that Rubiales “cupped and stroked” Coombs’s face and then “he seemingly forcefully kissed Lucy Bronze on her face”.
Then, in reference to when the Spain team walked up to collect their medals, Hewitt describes Rubiales “holding them very tightly. He rubbed some on their back, tapped one on her bottom, grabbed some by their arm, lifted several off their feet and one was hoisted twice”. Hewitt says witnessing this made her “deeply uncomfortable and embarrassed”.
She also added that there was “no evidence to suggest this kiss was consensual”, when recalling Rubiales kissing Hermoso on the lips. Hermoso has told a Spanish Court case that the kiss was not consensual. Rubiales has told the court he denies sexually assaulting the former Barcelona forward.
In his written response – also published by Fifa on Wednesday – to Hewitt’s witness statement, Rubiales describes Hewitt’s words as “astonishing”, saying he read her words with “dismay”, and accuses her of being prejudiced against him.
He then accuses her of “hypocrisy” on the basis that he says she hugged several players herself, with Rubiales adding: “Applying the same logic she [Hewitt] used, that [hugging] could be understood as a forceful non-consensual physical contact. The hypocrisy is blatant”.
Rubiales goes on to claim that he had merely tried to comfort Coombs because she had been injured during the final, had received stitches and was wearing a bandage on her head.
Coombs did not play for England in the final, having been an unused substitute.
Bronze has previously condemned Rubiales’ behaviour at the final in Sydney when asked about his alleged conduct towards Hermoso, but Bronze is not believed to have so far commented on any suggestion that Rubiales kissed her on the lips too.
Fifa’s disciplinary committee concluded regarding the testimony from Hewitt and her counterpart from New Zealand’s FA, that it was “hard to believe” they would have lied, and that the panel “had no reason to question or doubt about their objectivity considering that (i) they had no (personal) interest in the case at hand and its outcome, and (ii) they were both present on stage.
“Put differently, the Committee considered that those statements could be considered as a description of the incident by reasonable and objective observers.”
Rubiales resigned from his position as RFEF president in September, after initially refusing to do so in the aftermath of the final.