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Football: Local politicians voice their opinions about Gibraltar's UEFA application

Neil Parish speaks to Lars Christer Olsson about Gibraltar's UEFA membership. (image from The Sun)

GIBRALTAR could be a fully fledged member of UEFA by the weekend, allowing the tiny nation the chance to compete on football's international stage.

But that could lead to future match boycotts by Spain, which has repeatedly lodged appeals against Gibraltar's application as it refuses to recognise the Rock's sovereignty.

Neil Parish, Conservative MEP for south west England and Gibraltar, recently met with UEFA chief executive Lars Christer-Olsson, to plead for a fair hearing at the 31st UEFA Congress, which meets at the end of the week in Dusseldorf.

Parish said: “Gibraltar deserves the chance to play European football. UEFA’s decision must be about sport and not politics.

“Spain is still exploiting every opportunity it has to make a cheap point about sovereignty. Frankly, I thought Spain had grown out of these childlike games which just make Gibraltarians begrudge them even more.

“Spain should try to beat Gibraltar on the football pitch, not in a courtroom using obscure procedures.

“This week marks the culmination of a huge amount of effort from so many people. Their efforts must not be frustrated by another 11th hour letdown.”

Opposition voice their opinions about the GFA's application:

The Opposition condemns the Spanish Government for its continued opposition to full membership of UEFA for the Gibraltar Football Association.

It has now become known that Serbia will be voting against the GFA following a meeting between the Spanish Ambassador to that country and its football authorities.

There have been indications that the Serbians were influenced by the prospect of Kossovo applying to become a member in the future.

Given the level of lobbying against the GFA being orchestrated by Madrid, the United Kingdom should use its Ambassador to Serbia to lobby its football authorities in favour of Gibraltar’s application. However, it is clear that the British Government has no intention of doing this. Indeed, in answer to questions in Parliament they confirmed that they are not even going to lobby the English FA itself.

The Opposition consider that, judging from past experience, the involvement by the Spanish Government must be the tip of the iceberg. In the past, and in relation to other issues, Spain has mobilised its network of ambassadors in different countries in order to undermine the position of Gibraltar.

The continued obsession of Madrid to exclude Gibraltar’s footballers from Europe is totally unacceptable, whether or not the Gibraltar Football Association is admitted to UEFA should be a sporting matter and not a political matter.

The fact is that at the time when Gibraltar applied for membership, we met all the necessary criteria. Subsequent rule changes to allow only countries recognised by the United Nations to be admitted were deliberately orchestrated under pressure from the Spanish Government in order to keep Gibraltar out.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has already ruled that Gibraltar’s application must be considered in the context of the rules that existed at the time of the application.

Following this ruling, the Spanish Football Federation, on instructions from the Spanish Government, came up with the argument that Gibraltar’s sporting facilities (the Victoria Stadium) is built on disputed land. This is something that the Opposition totally reject.

The Opposition consider that were it not for the continued interference of the Spanish Government, UEFA would have accepted Gibraltar as a full member a long time ago. At the same time, it is quite incredible that Gibraltar cannot even depend on the United Kingdom to defend us in a matter of sport and where there is a court ruling in our favour.

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