Whilst there is great satisfaction in Gibraltar over the eventual success of the GFA being admitted to UEFA this is also great anger that our rugby players have been denied membership of their European association. Needless to say the stumbling block on both occasions has been Spain.
Indeed Spain’s sporting organizations are under orders from Madrid to block any membership attempts by our sporting bodies to join the associations of which they are members. It may be that some of those organizations do not object to our associations joining but that is by the by because the politicians have ruled that we shall not be admitted.
When it comes to mixing politics with sport, a game at which Spain are world champions, there may be an inclination to match fire with fire. However I would suggest extreme caution. Currently we hold the high moral ground and as has been magnificently demonstrated by the GFA patience, a regard for the law and sticking to sporting principles can at the end of the day make dreams come true.
Even our rugby union managed to get a majority backing their application to join but not a sufficient majority to make that a reality. It is quite obvious from the actions of Spanish politicians be they actual politicians, diplomats or administrators that they politicized an amateur sport.
However what is significant from Sweden is that the GRFU made friends and influenced people and the likelihood is that when their membership comes up again for the vote they will gain acceptance or the vote will move further in their favour.
I am of the opinion that the Spanish Government by speaking out against the GFA’s application to join UEFA and vowing to prevent it politically and legally were in breach of UEFA’s and FIFA’s strict rules on the interference in sport by political bodies. Indeed Spain must not be allowed to practice sporting apartheid in relation to Gibraltar be it our children participating in a tournament or the blocking of our national teams.
Our response has to be sporting and legal. On no account must we politically enter this battle because then Madrid will simply point to the involvement of our government doing what its own government has done for years. It is a case of two wrongs not making a right. Our arguments have to be based on our rights as sportspeople and the legality of our applications.
Of course it goes without saying that only in the cases where the sporting association in question meets the criteria laid down by the European or international body should our organization be supported. In other words if our shove ha’penny team hasn’t a ha’penny to shove then the world body for that pastime has ever right to tell them to shove off.
However where all the criteria are met then the association in question should not receive political support from our government but instead be given access to heavyweight legal advice and indeed a legal team as was the GFA. Spain needs to be confronted in the courts of law, being they sporting or judicial, and Madrid’s policy of apartheid and discrimination be shown before the world for exactly what it is to that nation’s shame.