Spain's sports court has agreed to investigate Luis Rubiales for forcibly kissing a Women's World Cup player, paving the way for fresh sanctions against the scandal-hit football boss, the government said Friday.
The government lodged a complaint against Rubiales through the state-run National Sports Council (CSD) exactly a week ago, accusing him of "very serious" offences.
But in agreeing to take the case, the Administrative Tribunal for Sport (TAD) said it considered the behaviour in question "serious", falling short of the government's characterisation of Rubiales actions.
Had the court accepted the "very serious" qualification, it would have allowed the Sports Council to suspend the 46-year-old head of the RFEF football federation for the duration of the case.
Rubiales has already been suspended by FIFA for 90 days while it decides on disciplinary measures after he forcibly kissed midfielder Jenni Hermoso after Spain won the Women's World Cup final in Sydney on August 20.
In response, Sports Minister Miquel Iceta said the Sports Council would "ask the court to temporarily suspend Luis Rubiales from his duties until the case against him has been definitively resolved".
"The Sports Council and the government believe the RFEF president's actions should be classified as a very serious abuse of authority which damage the image of Spanish football," he told a news conference.
"It's over.. We will not tolerate any lack of respect for women's rights, nor will we back down on policies of equality between men and women in sport."
- Damaging to Spanish football -
Rubiales has vigorously defended the unsolicited kiss as "just a peck" which he claimed was consensual but Hermoso said it was not, and that it left her feeling like the "victim of an assault".
He provoked further ire with a defiant speech at an emergency federation meeting in which he refused to resign despite mounting pressure and instead railed against "false feminism".
Rubiales also came under fire for grabbing his crotch with both hands as he celebrated Spain's win while standing next to Spain's Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter, Princess Sofia.
More than 80 Spain players, including the entire World Cup squad, have said they will not play for the Women's national team until there are changes in the RFEF leadership.
The federation's regional leaders on Monday urged Rubiales to step down, saying his unacceptable behaviour" had "seriously damaged the image of Spanish football".
They also reportedly agreed on the need for Vilda to go, although he is said to want another role at the federation if he leaves his current post.
Spanish prosecutors have also opened a preliminary investigation into Rubiales' kiss on grounds it could constitute "sexual assault" which under Spanish law covers a wide array of offences from online abuse to rape.