• Decision taken after ruling by court for arbitration in sport
Gibraltar has moved a step closer to becoming a member of Uefa after the tiny British colony was admitted as a provisional Uefa member by the organisation's executive committee.
"The committee has admitted Gibraltar as a provisional member of Uefa as from today, 1 October 2012," Uefa said in a statement. "This follows a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in August 2011. A decision on the admission of the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) as a full member of UEFA will be taken by the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London in May 2013."
If ratified Gibraltar (population 28,000) will become Uefa's 54th and smallest national team, behind the Faroe Islands (population 49,267) though it is unclear when they would be able to play their first international match as a full Uefa member.
Their most recent results include a 2-1 victory over Bury in Januray 2012, a 3-1 win over an England C team in November 2011, a 2-1 defeat to Rochdale in July 2011 and a 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands in March 2011, a result that will give them hope that they may not necessarily be the worst nation in Europe if they do earn full member status.
Gibraltar residents have long argued that the promontory is deserving of being a Uefa member, pointing to its wealth of football teams (over 100) and its potential to tap into this talent to develop its national team. But politics and strong opposition to the move in Spain has so far proved to be an insurmountable obstacle. Spain is particularly concerned that if Gibraltar is granted independent status as a footballing nation, there may be a strong push in the Basque Country and Catalonia for similar status for their international football teams, who already play regular friendly matches.
Spain still claims sovereignty over Gibraltar after it was ceded to Britain under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.
An edict from the Consejo Superior de Deportes to all sports federations in Spain says they should block any membership application from organisations in Gibraltar.