Gibraltar and Spain will be kept apart when the qualifying draw is made for Euro 2016 after Uefa added the fixture to a shortlist of matches that Europe’s governing body seeks to avoid at all costs.
Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory with a population of 29,000 – half the size of Torquay – yesterday became a full member of Uefa and will play their first competitive fixture next year when qualifying begins for Euro 2016, which takes place in France.
Spain, which still claims sovereignty over Gibraltar, has long opposed the territory’s bid for membership but could do nothing to bar their acceptance into the Uefa fold yesterday. After being refused membership six years ago Gibraltar took their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who judged that they were entitled to full membership, meaning yesterday’s congress of the 53 national associations had little choice but to add one to their number.
Spain and Gibraltar, which has 650 registered players, join Azerbaijan and Armenia and Russia and Georgia on Uefa’s list of opponents that have to be kept apart for non-footballing reasons.
Uefa’s congress also approved an 11-point plan to combat racism, the headline of which is the 10-game ban for any player found to have racially abused an opponent during a Uefa-run fixture. The resolution that was passed also called on all national associations to follow suit but the Football Association’s decision to introduce a minimum five-game ban will remain unchanged.
The FA’s decision to use five games as a starting point – rising to a life ban for repeat offenders – is set to be backed by Fifa, whose own task force on racism is to propose a five-game ban at next week’s congress in Mauritius. “I don’t feel we need vindication,” said David Bernstein, the FA chairman. “I feel the position we’ve got is an absolute sensible one. It stands perfectly well alongside Uefa. We are not comparing like with like – Uefa are legislating for their competitions. We are legislating right across English football from the grass roots up.
“Remember Fifa are the world governing body – if Fifa legislate for something then we would need to follow that very, very carefully.”
Meanwhile, England’s new Uefa executive committee member David Gill expects tonight’s Champions League final at Wembley to be the perfect showcase for the bid to host the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final.
Gill, who is standing down as Manchester United chief executive after 10 years, was elected unopposed at Uefa’s Congress in London yesterday.