ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Gibraltar’s long-standing dream of joining UEFA and taking part in European competition came closer to reality on Wednesday when the European governing body’s executive committee agreed financial and educational support.
The tiny British colony at the tip of Spain with a population of 28,000 people has applied to become UEFA’s 54th member before next year’s UEFA Congress in London when the other members will vote on its future.
Gibraltar last bid for UEFA membership in 2007 but out of the then 52 member associations only the English, Scottish and Welsh FAs voted in favour, while Spain threatened to boycott and withdraw from any competition to which Gibraltar were admitted.
Since then Gibraltar has competed against other outcast countries and is a member of the Federation of International Football Independents FIFI, an alternative to FIFA. The first FIFI world cup was contested in 2006 in Hamburg in Germany, with five nations taking part; Gibraltar, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (the eventual winner), Zanzibar, Greenland and Tibet.
Gibraltar’s case has been strengthened by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling that UEFA have to consider its membership.
Spain still claims sovereignty over Gibraltar after it was ceded to Britain under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. An edict from the Consejo Superior de Deportes to all sports federations in Spain says they should block any membership application from organisations in Gibraltar.
Editing by John Mehaffey)