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Football: Gibraltar's MEP defends GFA's right to UEFA membership

Brussels: Gibraltar's Conservative MEP Neil Parish has handed a letter to UEFA's chief executive, Lars Christer-Olsson, urging him to ensure Gibraltar's application to join the football organisation is given a fair hearing. Mr Christer-Olsson was in Brussels for a meeting with the European Parliament's culture committee.

Gibraltar's application to join UEFA has been constantly opposed by Spain, which is letting the ongoing sovereignty issue interfere with what should be an independent decision. Last week, UEFA's governing body postponed its decision on the Rock's membership of the football organisation after the Spanish lodged an eleventh hour appeal. All eyes are now on UEFA's congress, which will make the final decision in January.

Mr Parish said: "UEFA must ensure this decision is about football, and not politics. Spain's behaviour has so far been very unsportsmanlike, and it is a terrible shame that decisions about international football have to get politicians and courts involved.

"All I am asking UEFA for is a fair hearing. If the Faroe Islands and Greenland can be members, why can't Gibraltar? The way Spain has been playing lately, they could face a drubbing if they went up against the Rock in Euro 2012.

"UEFA must not allow itself to be hoodwinked into a decision that may cause fewer waves in Madrid, but would be unfair on Gibraltar."


This is the letter to Lars Christer-Olsson, UEFA chief executive:

Dear Mr Christer-Olsson,

I understand that UEFA's congress will make its final decision on Gibraltar's application to become a member of UEFA in January. As one of Gibraltar's MEP's, I am therefore writing to urge you to grant Gibraltar its rightful status as a member of the organisation.

In the past few weeks, the Spanish have been lobbying hard against Gibraltar's inclusion on the grounds that UEFA's statutes would be breached if they granted Gibraltar membership as the territory does not have individual representation at the United Nations. I believe that this complaint is both politically motivated and groundless. Gibraltar's application predates this rule which was only adopted in 1999. In addition, there are other UEFA members who have full membership but do not have a separate office in New York.

I am therefore greatly concerned that the Spanish are attempting to use the ongoing sovereignty issue as grounds to stop or delay Gibraltar's membership of UEFA. The Spanish government seems willing to politicise football to make a point about sovereignty. Gibraltar has a rightful place in European football and I urge UEFA not to succumb to these petty Spanish efforts to deprive Gibraltar of its rightful place.

This decision should be about football, and not politics and I therefore urge UEFA not to be hoodwinked into a decision that may cause fewer waves in Madrid, but would be unfair on Gibraltar.

Yours sincerely,
Neil Parish MEP

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