Home / Football / Gibraltar moves group in Euro 2016 qualifiers draw over political tensions

Gibraltar moves group in Euro 2016 qualifiers draw over political tensions


Spain and Gibraltar have been separated in the Ero 2016 draw


Spain and Gibraltar have been separated in the Ero 2016 draw Photo: JEAN-PAUL PELISSIER/REUTERS




Gibraltar had been due to face Spain in the Euro 2016 football tournament
qualifiers – but has been moved to a new group for political reasons.

The blind draw in Nice, France, briefly saw the British overseas territory
paired up with the current European and world champions in Group C.

But European football’s governing body UEFA had already announced in December
that Gibraltar and Spain would be kept apart amid continuing political
tensions over the territory’s sovereignty.

Gibraltar was switched to Group D, where they will face Scotland and the
Republic of Ireland among others.

The territory, which has a population of 29,000, became a full member of UEFA
last year and will be competing in the qualifying round for the first time.

UEFA’s executive committee announced that its newest member would be kept
separate from Spain after a meeting in Bilbao in December.

General secretary Gianni Infantino was quoted as saying: “Gibraltar is a full
member and will participate in the draw on February 23, but it will not play
against Spain. That was one of the criteria that was decided.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan, who went to war between 1992 and 1994 and still have
territorial disputes, were also kept apart in the qualifying round for Euro
2012.

Gibraltar first applied for UEFA membership in 1999 but faced opposition from
Spain, which sought to stop a precedent being set for Basque and Catalan
national football teams.

It was accepted as UEFA’s smallest full member by population at a congress
held in London in May, with only Spain and Belarus opposed.

The territory’s first official international was a 0-0 friendly draw against
Slovakia held on November 19 at the Estadio Algarve in Portugal.

The Euro 2016 qualifying round, which runs from September 2014 to November
2015, will also see the overseas territory face Germany, Poland and Georgia.

Today’s draw took place as three Royal Navy warships were set to dock in
Gibraltar as the row between the UK and Spain over the Rock rumbled on.

HMS Westminster, HMS Brocklesby and HMS Daring were reportedly due to carry
out patrols after a Spanish warship interrupted an elite forces training
exercise last week.

A spokesman for Gibraltar told the Sun on Sunday: “Royal Navy ships are always
welcome, no matter how long they stay.”

England, meanwhile, were handed a straightforward qualifying campaign in Group
E and will face Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino.

Wales have a shot at a play-off place or better in Group B, where they will
face Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Israel, Cyprus and Andorra.


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Gibraltar moves group in Euro 2016 qualifiers draw over political tensions

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