ST PETERSBURG: European federation UEFA, already gritting its teeth at being pushed towards an accommodation over Kosovo, has taken the first step towards a potentially even more sensitive step writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The executive committee, meeting under the presidency of Michel Platini in St Petersburg, has admitted Gibraltar as a provisional member – a move long resisted by UEFA under heavy political pressure from the Spanish federation.

Approving ‘The Rock’ provisionally does not mean that the decision is final. Far from it. Congress in London next May has the decisive vote and FEF president Angel Maria Villar – leaned on heavily by the Madrid government – may seek to canvas enough votes for a ‘No’ vote.

However that would put UEFA in direct conflict with the Court of Arbitration for Sport – sport’s supreme court – which has ruled that the European federation, according to its own statutes, has no option but to admit the GFA.

The Spanish government has long objected to Gibraltar’s status as a British overseas territory.*

Under UEFA’s present statutes, amended and tightened deliberately to keep Gibraltar out, a territory not recognised as a sovereign state by the United Nations could not join ‘the club.’ However the GFA’s original bid to join UEFA was made before the statutes amendment and it was on this that CAS ruled.

The Spanish-powered political bid to keep Gibraltar at bay was one of the reasons – though not the only one – driving UEFA’s bid to resist allowing Kosovar teams to play even ‘only’ friendly matches against member nations.

Last May FIFA, irritated with UEFA political stalling, gave Kosovo the green light to play without the state having yet achieved UN membership. In December FIFA’s executive will lay down the terms – resisted by Serbia – by which Kosovar teams may engage with the rest of Europe.

Other decisions

Other decisions taken by the UEFA executive committee:

1, ratified the regulations for both the 2013–15 UEFA European Under-21 Championship and the European qualifying competition for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

2, admitted four European national associations to the UEFA Coaching Convention: Azerbaijan(Pro level), Austria (A Youth level), Belarus (Pro level) and France (A Youth level) – the convention aims to protect the coaching profession and smooth the way for the free movement of qualified coaches in accordance with European law

3, admitted three national associations to the UEFA Grassroots Charter: Bulgaria (one-star level), Spain (three-star level) and Belgium (four-star level)

4,  updated  provisions of the UEFA Referees’ Convention have also been updated (reflecting future goals, including updating requirements, greater emphasis on fitness monitoring and standardising the education of grassroots referees. To date, there are 49 full members and one partial member of the convention)

5, awarded commercial rights management of centralised marketing for national team competitions to CAA Eleven.

** Gibraltar was ceded to Britain “in perpetuity” under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.  Referendums in 1967 and 2002 rejected a transfer of sovereignity.

= = = =