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Football: GUERNSEY’S bid for European football has taken a serious blow following Gibraltar’s failure to join Uefa.

Last week their application for full membership was thrown out at a meeting of the Uefa congress.It was defeated by 45 votes to three as only the English, Welsh and Scottish football associations voted in favour.

The decision will now hamper any hopes that the Guernsey FA have of one day playing international matches and in Uefa’s European Championship or the World Cup.

Despite that, the GFA president, Dave Nussbaumer, denies that the decision has spelt the end of Guernsey’s own international football dreams. ‘We’re in no different a position from when we were waiting to see how Gibraltar would turn out,’ he said.

‘We’re still in conversation with the powers that be. ‘Obviously I’m disappointed for Gibraltar and possibly for us as well, but with Platini, there could be a new format which could be better for us.’

Nussbaumer hopes that, following Michel Platini being voted in as the new Uefa president last month, the French football legend will bring some changes to the European Championship.

Platini has already shown that he is not afraid to air controversial ideas as he plans to limit the number of Champions League places to three per country, rather than the current four.

One idea that has been bandied about for a while now is the plan to create a lower-tier European Championship competition for the smaller countries like San Marino, Andorra and Faroe Islands.

They would battle it out to see who makes the qualifiers for the main tournament. The likes of Gibraltar, Jersey and Guernsey would fall into that category if it was formed and it would see more countries given the chance to play at the highest level.

‘With Platini we might see a change to like what you have in cricket where smaller countries have to qualify to be involved,’ said Nussbaumer. ‘Jersey are trying very hard and I’m speaking with my Jersey counterpart next month at the Alderney Muratti [semi-final] and we will discuss it.

’The JFA president, Ricky Weir, sees the two-tier structure as the best hope that the Channel Islands could be admitted in the organisation. ‘We’ll see what steps Platini takes but the hope is that pressure from the bigger nations will create this two-tier system that will be supplemented by other smaller nations that Jersey and Guernsey would fall into,’ Weir said.

Gibraltar’s bid for international status has been a 10-year struggle with their neighbours, Spain, who have for hundreds of years claimed Gibraltar for themselves, objecting at every step.

Gibraltar first applied in January 1997 to Fifa who deemed that the 28,000-populated overseas British territory did not meet their criteria and referred them to Uefa. After a number of hiccups for the Gibraltar FA, the matter ended up at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in September.It ordered Uefa to give them provisional membership and, after some more issues, they finally did so in December. But when the matter of full membership came up in front of the Uefa congress on Friday, it was blown out of the water.

Weir believes that the Channel Islands in their bid will not face the same intense political pressure that Gibraltar has and which has ultimately been their downfall so far. At the same meeting, the small Balkan state of Montenegro was given full membership.‘It’s like a private club: if your face doesn’t fit, you’re not welcome. But perhaps we can take some comfort from the fact that the Spanish won’t be against us or Guernsey,’ he said.

‘We’re taking steps to get the backing of the FA but it’s a political process, not a football process, as Uefa is a political body as much as it is a football one. ‘We plan to work towards hosting smaller nations’ tournaments and using them as a shop window to encourage the powers that be to show what we can offer.

‘Without saying anything negative about Gibraltar, we are quite considerably ahead of them with regard to facilities and the number of clubs we have. But they are not going to give up.‘ They are going to appeal so it’s not over yet. ‘As for us, I didn’t get particularly excited when the CAS ruled in favour of Gibraltar, so I’m not getting despondent now.

Article by Aaron Scoones

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