After years of rejection by football's governing body, Gibraltar finally wins the right to play in the World Cup.
FIFA has been instructed by sport’s supreme court to admit Gibraltar to membership.
The Rock’s application was rejected in September 2014 by the world federation’s executive committee even though the GFA had already won its long fight to gain admission to European governing body UEFA.
FIFA rejected Gibraltar’s application because the British territory was not an independent country as required by the governing body in statutes which had been updated in 2013, two months before Gibraltar joined UEFA after winning a previous case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Now CAS has told FIFA to submit Gibraltar’s application later this month to its Congress, which has the power to grant membership. In effect, as with UEFA previously, the CAS panel clearly considered the rule change vexacious.
The part-timers finished bottom of Group D in Euro 2016 qualifying without collecting a point in their first senior competitive campaign.
However, they were not able to be included in the World Cup qualifying draw last July. This could yet be amended if Congress, being held in Mexico City and its first under new president Gianni Infantino, accedes to the CAS instruction.
Infantino was general secretary of UEFA when it admitted the GFA.
There is no room for equivocation.
A CAS statement said: “The panel has unanimously ordered that the FIFA Congress take all necessary measures to admit the GFA as a full member of FIFA as soon as possible, within the limits of the FIFA Statutes.”
The GFA said: “We understand that FIFA is working to ensure our inclusion in next week’s Congress agenda.”
Opposition to Gibraltar at all levels has come from Spain – which lays political claims to the territory – and from Russia and Serbia which both have particular concerns of their own about the admission and hence recognition of politically-disputed territories.
UEFA’s own congress, here in Budapest, will consider an application for membership from Kosovo which – contrarily – is expected to be admitted later this month to FIFA despite having been continually blocked by UEFA.
The UEFA objection has always been that Kosovo does not fulfil its regulatory demand that member nations should be members of the United Nations.
Kosovo has already been admitted to the Olympic movement.