PtG Article 13.10.2006

UEFA makes Gibraltar wait for membership after Spanish intervention

Gibraltar must wait longer than anticipated for membership of UEFA. UEFA’s Executive Committee has decided to postpone the decision to grant Gibraltar membership after opposition from Spain. The Spanish football association claims that Gibraltar’s football stadium is built on disputed land under Spanish sovereignty.

Gibraltar has had an application for membership of UEFA pending since 1999 and this summer the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that UEFA should admit Gibraltar as a provisional member at its next executive meeting and then the next UEFA congress should consider a full membership for the small football association.

But Spain still claims sovereignty over Gibraltar and demands that sports federations in Spain must block any membership applications from organisations in Gibraltar. And at UEFA’s executive committee meeting this month, the Spanish football association submitted a number of new documents for UEFA to consider.

UEFA’s behaviour considered scandalous

According to Panorama, a newspaper in Gibraltar, Spain argues that Gibraltar’s football stadium is not in British Gibraltar but on the isthmus. The isthmus has been labelled disputed land in an agreement between Spain, the UK and Gibraltar about an airport. 

This agreement is now being used by the Spanish football association in an attempt to block Gibraltar’s membership of UEFA, the newspaper says.Joe Nunez, president of Gibraltar Football Association, calls UEFA’s behaviour against Gibraltar for scandalous. 

"It is a quite scandalous manner to behave for an international governing body and especially one that advocates the need to comply with Court of Arbitration for Sport rulings," he says to Panorama.

Joe Nunez also dismisses Spain’s attempt to make it a problem that Gibraltar’s football stadium is built on disputed land."I have never heard of a more ridiculous argument; and that a body such as the Spanish football association or a body such as UEFA should even bother to consider it, is beyond all belief, especially in the light of the fact that the court did not give UEFA any discretion in the matter. It ordered the Executive Committee to grant us provisional membership," he says.