Sun, Jan 28, 2007 - Page 23 News List

UEFA rejects Gibraltar


UEFA overwhelmingly rejected Gibraltar's application on Friday to become a full member of European soccer's governing body.

Montenegro, which split from Serbia last year, instead became UEFA's 53rd nation.

In a highly charged political debate, Spain urged delegates to keep the tiny British colony at the southern edge of Spain out of UEFA.

"In Spain, this subject carries a huge social and political sensitivity," Spain's Angel Maria Vilar Llona, a UEFA vice president, said. "We don't want to bring political problems in soccer. We want politicians to solve political problems."

In a show of hands, UEFA members turned down Gibraltar's admission. Only the four federations of the United Kingdom voted for the inclusion.

Neil Parish, the Conservative European Parliament member for Gibraltar, called the decision outrageous.

"Spain has acted like a jealous spoilt child over the application. It should settle its differences on the football pitch, not in the legal and political arena," he said.

After a court challenge, Gibraltar was granted provisional membership of UEFA last month but FIFA ruled Gibraltar's application for membership on the world governing body could not be granted.

Montenegro's inclusion was almost automatic and was welcomed with applause from around the congress center.

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