Gibraltar barred from FIFA membership

ZURICH, Sept 26 (Reuters) – Gibraltar, accepted as a member by European football’s governing body UEFA last year, does not qualify for membership of FIFA, football’s governing body said on Friday.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter adjusts his glasses as he addresses a news conference after a meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Zurich September 26, 2014. Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

Speaking to reporters after an executive committee meeting, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Gibraltar could not be accepted because, in effect, it was not regarded by FIFA as ‘a country’.

“The football association of Gibraltar cannot be accepted as a member of FIFA, according to article 10 of the FIFA statutes,” he said. “The applicant must organise and supervise football in one country, being an independent state, according to the FIFA statutes,” he added.

The FIFA Statutes, August 2014 edition, define a country as “an independent state recognised by the international community.”

Gibraltar, a British overseas territory which borders the southern tip of Spain, was accepted as a UEFA member after a 14-year battle during which it faced fierce opposition from Spain.

They played their first competitive international earlier this month, losing 7-0 to Poland in a Euro 2016 qualifier.

Their clubs were also admitted to UEFA competition.

But Gibraltar will not be able to take part in the World Cup qualifiers which start in 2016, following FIFA’s announcement.

In another decision, FIFA agreed to accept that a planned Centenary Copa America, in 2016, would be inserted into the international calendar, meaning that clubs would have to release players for the tournament.

Blatter said that, as part of the agreement, the competition would take place at the same time as Euro 2016.

The 16-team one-off event will be held in the United States, featuring all ten South American teams plus six from the CONCACAF confederation representing North and Central America and the Caribbean.

The regular Copa America is held every four years with the next edition taking place in 2015.

Editing by Tim Collings