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Football: Gibraltar on the verge of becoming a UEFA member

Gibraltar’s admission into UEFA is now taken as a foregone conclusion in Spain, according to some of the most influential news media in the country.

Reports about the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision backing the local application for membership, yesterday spread like wildfire across the leading sports dailies and media in the country.

Meanwhile UEFA president Lennart Johansson last night declared that Europe’s soccer ruling body will not take into account any possible complaints or threats from Spain following the decision by CAS. Mr Johanson is quoted as saying:

“This is something that goes beyond the purely sporting issue and into politics. There is nothing we can do about it, and following the decision by the Tribunal for Arbitration and Sport, Gibraltar will be a full member of UEFA.”

It is understood that Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Angel Villar was informed of this possibility, at a recent meeting of the UEFA executive committee earlier this summer. Sr Villar has declined to comment on the latest developments.

CAS is the highest sports tribunal in Europe and there is no mechanism for appeal against its decisions.

Media Interest

The Cadena Ser flagship sports programme ‘El Larguero’ was preparing a feature on the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) application last night, and seeking an interview with president Joey Nunez to explain the favouble CAS ruling.

Meanwhile the breakfast radio ‘tertulias’ linked Spain’s European Championship qualifier against Northern Ireland that was played yesterday, with the failure at this summer’s world cup tournament in Germany, anticipating a future world cup qualifying tie versus Gibraltar with a mixture of incredulity and sarcasm.

For its part Canal Sur yesterday quoted a spokesman for Foreign Secretary Miguel Angel Moratinos saying that Spain will do “whatever is necessary,” so that UEFA’s current regulations are applied and Gibraltar’s admission is not allowed. It said the Spanish Government had yesterday been notified of the CAS ruling instructing the UEFA executive committee to consider Gibraltar’s admission on a provisional basis at the forthcoming meeting in October. The last hurdle Gibraltar would have to clear to obtain full membership status, is the approval of the UEFA congress that will take place in Germany in late January 2007. Sr Moratinos spokesman added:

“Spain will examine the ruling closely, will defend its interests and do whatever is necessary to uphold the existing UEFA regulation.”

The regulation in question which was introduced at the time of the GFA application in 1999, says that only states that are recognised by the United Nations can be accepted as members of UEFA.

Opposition Angry at Spain

Meanwhile, the GSLP/Liberal Opposition has welcomed the news that the Gibraltar Amateur Rowing Association (GARA) has been admitted as a full member of the European Federation.

Congratulating GARA for their achievement they believe the European Federation will open new avenues for further success.

“It is regrettable that on the eve of this announcement, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said that they will do whatever is necessary so that UEFA does not allow the Gibraltar Football Association to join as a member,” says the Alliance adding that it is totally inconsistent for Spain to threaten further action against Gibraltar in one sport when they have just had to concede our membership in another.

“While it is not clear what Spain will do, it will be recalled that in the past the Spanish Football Federation has threatened to withdraw its clubs from European competitions if Gibraltar is admitted.”

The Opposition is urging the Spanish Government to “stop politicising the issue and to accept that Gibraltar sportsmen and women have the same right as everyone else to represent their country in international events.”

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