world football in Gibraltar hampered by UEFA political stance | Launderer report


Gibraltar is best known for its monkeys, its reputation as a tax haven and perhaps for its role in the pre-credit scene in the 1987 James Bond film, Daylight alive. However, however you look at him, he’s not known for football reasons.

It’s not for fun to try though. Run by one of football’s oldest governing bodies established in 1895, Gibraltar has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with UEFA over membership. The conflict has now been going on for almost 15 years.

The Gibraltarian Football Association first applied for membership in UEFA in 1997, supported by the recent acceptance from the Faroe Islands seven years earlier. The Faroe Islands are a small Danish province of just under 50,000 inhabitants, but since Denmark had no objections, UEFA allowed them to become an independent member and therefore participate in competitions sanctioned by the UEFA.

With this previous ruling in their favor, Gibraltar announced its candidacy for UEFA membership 15 years ago, but immediately encountered opposition from its big neighbors and from European football’s superpower, the Spain.

Spain is fundamentally opposed to Gibraltar obtaining any form of international recognition as an independent entity. Not only do they feel they have a sovereign right to rule the territory, but they also harbor concerns that if Gibraltar wins a national team it could inspire similar ambitions in the fiercely independent Basque Country and Catalonia.

Spain have gone so far as to threaten to withdraw from all UEFA competitions if Gibraltar is accepted, including the European Championships, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup.

Spain based its complaint on the fact that it considered that the sports facilities in Gibraltar were located on disputed land. According to them, part of the territory was illegally taken by the British at the end of World War II. Thus, they argued that the Spanish state being responsible for defending its interests, they should oppose Gibraltar’s candidacy.

In this context of discontent and extortion, UEFA introduced a new decision in 1999, modifying the entry parameters to restrict entry to countries officially recognized by the United Nations as independent countries. This new regulation blocked Gibraltar’s offer and was used as a reason for rejecting their candidacy.

However, the story does not end there. The Gibraltar federation continued to fight the decision and won a major decision in the mid-2000s, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that UEFA must consider Gibraltar’s candidacy under the rules governing membership at the time. of candidacy, rules under which Gibraltar qualifies. for provisional membership.

UEFA refused to move in its platform and continued to reject Gibraltar’s candidacy.

In 2007, a vote was taken at the UEFA Congress on whether Gibraltar should be admitted, but only England, Wales and Scotland voted in favor. The other 49 nations, led by the powerful Spaniards, voted against the proposal.

Gibraltar still maintains that he will not give up his fight. They believe they can prove that their membership is rejected only for political reasons, rather than sporting reasons, a distinction which is not allowed under the terms of UEFA’s regulations.

Indeed, it was only recently when talking about the incidents surrounding Celtic’s Neil Lennon, Michel Platini announced via The Guardian that “we must keep politics and religion out of football and sport”. So it seems somewhat hypocritical that he welcomes the need to separate politics from sport, but then blocks entry to Gibraltar for political reasons.

Football is an integral part of life in Gibraltar. Although it has only 30,000 inhabitants, it has more than 100 registered football teams and a stadium approved by FIFA. Earlier this year, the Gibraltar national team scored an impressive 3-0 victory over a full Faroe Islands team, the same side that had recently drawn with Northern Ireland and beat only Estonia. three months later.

Moreover, only UEFA seems to block Gibraltar’s sporting interests. Gibraltar has a national cricket team, which is an associate member of the ICC; it has a national hockey team which regularly plays in major European competitions; it has swimming and water polo teams that play in the World Cups. He is even recognized as an official member of the IAAF, the official council governing athletics.

However, as the Spaniards continue to oppose Gibraltar’s introduction into UEFA, it will continue to be an uphill struggle. Especially now, given Spain’s status as world and European champions, football’s governing bodies are loath to upset their new poster boys.

But the battle will continue to be fought in the courts and behind the scenes of governing bodies. In the words of Allen Bula, Gibraltar’s national coach, as reported: “To UEFA and FIFA, don’t think for one minute that this storm is going to subside little by little so that you can eat your tapas in peace, because that’s for sure. that the Gibraltar case will be in your face every day for as long as it takes until you remove the politics from football.

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