Keir RadnedgeGibraltar, finally, has won its right to play an equal role in the European – and hence ultimately world – football family. UEFA Congress voted in favour today by an overwhelmingly majority.

For two decades the British protectorate had been blocked by the Spanish federation at the orders of its own government which has always objected to the status of ‘The Rock’ and feared recognition would only encourage independence movements in Catalonia and Vizcaya.

The GFA eventually appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which ruled that, under the terms of UEFA statutes when Gibraltar applied in 1999, it had no right to deny membership.

That formal background was set out by veteran UEFA director Senes Erzik who told delegates that, under the statutes pertaining in 1999 the CAS had ruled that the GFA was entitled to full membership of UEFA.

This decision was not a precedent for any other territories and thus, Erzik added: “Both UEFA and the GFA have faithfully followed the road map leading up to this vote. Based on this we ask the UEFA Congress to vote on the membership application made by the GFA.”

Thanks were expressed by Gareth Latin, president of the GFA.

He told congress: “It has been a long journey but football and all our love for the sport has prevailed. This is a momentous occasion for football on Gibraltar. We can now begin the next chapter of Gibraltar football, offering our  football community the best possible  future and development means.”

Latin, as he left the congress stage, was applauded by delegates including – most notably – Spanish federation president Angel Maria Villar.

On other issues UEFA members adopted unanimously the proposal to ramp up its disciplinary weapons in the fight against racism. They thus brought the organisation’s sanctions system and conscience into line with demands of players and officials exasperated for years by its blind eye to the issue.

Crowds guilty of racist chanting will attract, in the first instance, a partial closure of a stadium; a second offence will result in a full stadium closure plus a E50,000 fine. Racist chanting during a match will incur first a warning, then a suspension of the game and then its abandonment as a last resort.

Players or officials guilty of racist behaviour would incur a minimum 10-match ban.

A minimum ban for insulting a referee has been increased from two to three matches with a minimum tariff for an assault being lifted from 10 to 15 matches.

Separately general secretary Gianni Infantino confirmed the approval of the executive committee for the promotion into the Champions League, from 2015, of the winners of the Europa League.

The elections process was simplified by the withdrawal of Portugal’s Fernando Gomes from the executive committee candidacies meant there was no need for a ballot for any of the positions available.

Hence re-elected to the executive committee by acclamation were Giancarlo Abete (Italy), Allan Hansen (Denmark), Frantisek Laurinc (Slovakia), Marios Lefkaritis (Cyprus), Avraham Luzon (Israel) and Michael Van Praag (Holland).

Newly-elected members, also by acclamation, were England’s David Gill – the departing chief executive of Manchester United – and the German federation president Wolfgang Niersbach.

Gill, effectively, succeeds to the exco role vacated by the retirement of Geoff Thompson who was acclaimed an honorary member of UEFA in recognition of his services to football.

Re-elected as UEFA delegates to the FIFA executive for further four-year terms were Michel D’Hooghe (Belgium), Senes Erzik (Turkey), Vitaly Mutko (Russia) and Lefkaritis.

By Keir Radnedge

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