By Brian Homewood
BRATISLAVA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The Channel island of Jersey failed in its bid to join UEFA on Monday when its application was rejected by the annual Congress of European soccer’s governing body.
Jersey FA president Phil Austin told the Congress that football on the island of about 100,000 people was in danger of declining without international competition but members rejected the application after being told it would violate UEFA statutes.
There was confusion as only 50 votes were counted from UEFA’s 55 member associations. Forty-nine delegates raised symbolic red cards when asked to vote on Jersey’s application, one abstained and there were none in favour.
“We are ready to modernise to change football but we are not above our own statutes, this is a big change,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said.
Jersey, a 45-square-mile (117 square kilometres) island off the coast of Normandy in France, is a British Crown Dependency which sits outside the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Members were told that Article 5 of the UEFA statutes limits membership to FAs which are based in a country “recognised as an independent state by the majority of members of the United Nations”.
Austin argued that Jersey has its own government and parliament, makes its own laws and sets its own taxes.
“Jersey competes internationally in a number of other sports on a regular basis,” he said. “Why should football take a different view?”
Austin said Jersey had lost opponents over the last few years, including Faroe Islands and Gibraltar who have become UEFA members.
“We’ve reached a critical stage in the progress of our game where without regular international competition, football will decline...indeed it’s started to happen.”
Austin told Reuters he was disappointed but not surprised.
“The fact that it wasn’t unanimous was positive...certainly, three or four associations told us they were going to vote for us,” he said.
“We have got to find a way of taking it forward. We understand Greenland are thinking of applying, so I think there will be others.”
Writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond