After a long 14-year battle prolongued due to Spanish claims over sovereignty of the Rock, the Gibraltar Football Association has been admitted as a full member of European Football's governing body, UEFA. The UEFA President Michel Platini made the announcement following the vote by hand of delegates during the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London.
The positive vote by delegates was overwhelming so there was no need for a formal count. Of course Spain, long term objectors, voted to reject the application, although they declined to make the vote an electronic one thus enabling a vote by hand.
Gibraltar's football teams can now compete in European competitions and the national team can begin thinking about participating in the forthcoming qualification rounds for the next European Championship.
The UEFA President Michel Platini confirmed that Gibraltar would be kept apart from Spain in qualifying for Euro 2016, saying: "Gibraltar will not play qualifying matches with Spain - we also have this situation with Armenia and Azerbaijan
Gibraltar first tried to join UEFA in 2007 but the bid was rejected as only three countries supported the move (England, Scotland and Wales) and Spain opposed it rigorously and threatened to boycott both club and international competitions if it succeeded.
The Rock has now become the smallest UEFA member in terms of population, behind San Marino (just over 32,000), Liechtenstein (approximately 37,000) and the Faroe Islands (just under 50,000).
In reaction to the positive result, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo said
: "Today is a historic day for sport in Gibraltar. All of Gibraltar will be filled with joy at the GFA's success. Most of us will remember forever where we were when we heard this decision come through.
"The decision by UEFA members to admit Gibraltar into the European football family of nations is long overdue. When sports and politics are mixed they produce a toxic cocktail that should be avoided. And today UEFA have looked beyond those who would bring politics into European sport to reach the right conclusion for UEFA, for football, the GFA and for Gibraltar."
The Minister for Sport Steven Linares
added: “Gibraltar has waited for many years for the good news of our admission into UEFA. There is no doubt that membership of UEFA will provide a huge boost to football in Gibraltar and this will be seen among the younger generation of Gibraltarians who will now have the opportunity to pitch their skills against those of their European counterparts.
Gibraltar MEP Sir Graham Watson
tweeted: Fellow South West MEP Julie Girling
later tweeted her congratulations
and Ashley Fox
expressed his delight on his Facebook profile
The Minister for Europe, David Lidington, was 'delighted' by the news, tweeting
: "Congratulations #Gibraltar on joining UEFA! Pleased UEFA agreed Gib FA’s full membership today #sportnotpolitics
Gibraltar Football Association president Gareth Latin hailed the vote a "a momentous occasion for football in Gibraltar. UEFA membership means we can begin the next chapter of Gibraltarian football
The Governor of Gibraltar, Sir Adrian Johns, said in a statement
: "I welcome the fantastic news that the Gibraltar FA has finally been admitted to UEFA. It has been a monumental effort by Team 54 and their supporters. For 120 years football has been an important part of life in Gibraltar for young and old alike and this is a big step in promoting further sporting development. Visiting footballers and fans will receive the warmest of welcomes in Gibraltar and an opportunity to share in Gibraltar’s passion for the sport.
Congratulations to the GFA and all involved in the efforts over the years.
Some selected other tweets:
Labels: Ashley Fox, Graham Watson, Julie Girling