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Football: Dr Joe Garcia airs his views on the GFA's, UEFA application

The Leader of the Liberal Party Dr Joseph Garcia has described Spain's approach to Gibraltar's UEFA bid as disgraceful. He has accused the Spanish Government of mixing politics and sport and behaving in a totally unacceptable manner. The Liberal Leader says that the latest information he has received from contacts in Europe is that the Spanish Football Federation now claims that Gibraltar's sporting facilities are on disputed land.

These comments by Dr Garcia were made in a briefing paper sent to Liberal contacts internationally, although mainly centred in Europe. The briefing paper has come about as a result of interest expressed on this issue on the part of individual delegates at the recent Liberal International Congress, which took place in Morocco.

In the paper, Dr Garcia has traced the history of the issue. He explained how the Gibraltar Football Association, applied to join FIFA in January 1997. In March 1999 FIFA confirmed that the application was in order and passed the file to UEFA. The following month Gibraltar applied to join UEFA. He recalled how the Spanish Government issued a decree to all its sporting federations to oppose any application by an association from Gibraltar to any international sporting association.

Following the application from Gibraltar and under pressure from the Spanish FA, UEFA changed its rules so that only sovereign countries recognised by the United Nations could be members. The Gibraltar Football Association took the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland two times. In July 2006, most recently, the court instructed UEFA to admit the Gibraltar Football Association as a provisional member at its next Executive meeting.

In October this year, the UEFA Executive ignored the court ruling and did not admit Gibraltar on the basis of new evidence submitted by Spain. It has since emerged from contacts in Europe, and following press reports in Spain and Gibraltar, that this so-called new evidence is Madrid's claim that Gibraltar's sporting facilities, namely the Victoria Stadium, is built on disputed land on the isthmus that links Gibraltar to Spain.

"This is something that we reject," Dr Garcia has explained. "However, it is clear that Spain will go to any lengths to exclude Gibraltar and that when one of their arguments are defeated, they simply move on to the next one."

The Liberal Leader has said that it is important to inform politicians outside Gibraltar of this problem, as you never know when someone might be in a position to help. "It is totally unacceptable to us in Gibraltar that our footballers should be deprived of the benefits and of the ability to improve themselves that UEFA membership would bring," Dr Garcia has told his Liberal contacts.

"There are examples of small European territories like the Faroe Islands, San Marino and Monaco all of which belong to UEFA. Gibraltar must be allowed to join them", he added.

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