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By ESPN Staff
Dec 6, 2006

UEFA to reconsider Gibraltar's sporting status

ZURICH, Dec 6 (Reuters) - UEFA's Executive Committee will reconsider Gibraltar's controversial request for UEFA membership this week in the face of strong opposition from the Spanish football association.

The committee had been expected to approve Gibraltar's provisional membership at its last meeting in Ljubljana last month in line with a directive from the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

It delayed its decision after new documents relating to the application were submitted by the Spanish.

The British overseas territory, whose sovereignty is the subject of a dispute with Spain, has been fighting for an officially recognised football association since 1999.

Should UEFA award provisional membership to the territory following the committee's next round of discussions on Thursday and Friday, the question of full membership would still have to be put before the UEFA Congress in January.

The executive look set to approve provisional membership, but what happens at the congress is anybody's guess, said a UEFA official.

But the Spanish will mount a huge lobbying campaign and the fact they don't have any footballing history, backed up by FIFA'a decision today (that Gibraltar does not meet the statutory requirements to become a FIFA member), means they are unlikely to win the vote in congress in the end.

It must however be said that the Spanish arguments last time, such as the lack of a pitch etc, were really given lip-service by the executive as they had already decided to give provisional membership, added the UEFA official.

In July CAS ordered the committee to admit the Gibraltar Football Association to provisional membership of UEFA at its next meeting.

Having failed to do so in October, UEFA now runs the risk of being in violation of a CAS ruling - an uncomfortable position for an organisation that has previously promoted the Lausanne court as the supreme body for the settlement of all sports-related disputes.

Although it has instructed the executive committee to grant provisional membership to Gibraltar, the CAS ruling stopped short of ordering full membership.

The court said, however, that the Congress should decide on the territory's application on the basis of the rules applicable at the time of the initial request...and excluding the application of the rules introduced subsequently.

UEFA had originally declined Gibraltar's request because of a rule in UEFA's statutes stating that membership could be granted only to countries recognised by the United Nations as independent states.

The rule was introduced in 2001 - two years after Gibraltar first filed its application.

UEFA's executive committee will also discuss requests from the football associations of Andorra and San Marino for a change in the allocation of Champions League qualifying places.

As the occupants of the last two places in UEFA's 52-member rankings system, the two tiny nations are the only ones not to receive a qualifying slot for Europe's most prestigious club competition.

The Executive Committee is being asked to slightly rejig the entry list so that every member has at least one team involved in the competition's early stages.