By Paul Nicholson
February 14 – The Jersey FA is seeking to become the 56th member of UEFA at the confederation’s Congress in Bratislava, Slovakia, next week. The island nation, part of the British Isles, has increased its lobbying and sharpened its case for inclusion, including making its case to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.
Jersey first submitted their application in 2015 but were refused access to the UEFA Congress by UEFA’s executive. Jersey took their case to the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) and won the right to go before congress, though CAS felt their application would fail under the Article 5 ruling in UEFA’s statutes that stipulate members have to be independent nations.
Jersey argue that they are not part of the UK and that they are recognised as a self governing jurisdiction by the OECD. They point to the island’s cricket team already being recognised in international competition and that they will be sending their own team to the Commonwealth Games.
Phil Austin, president of the Jersey FA, said: “Our application for full membership is to get help to be able to move our game forward. We have great infrastructure and facilities, and youth training. But we don’t have regular competitive games. We need the impetus of regular competition and came to the conclusion that joining UEFA is the best way. We think we would be good UEFA members.”
For Jersey this isn’t about getting a cut of UEFA’s money pile and Jersey haven’t asked or are looking for handouts. “Our priority is getting a games programme. Membership of UEFA and a games programme would bring sponsorship. We haven’t asked for money. The principle is about football, our credentials and developing football on our island,” said Austin.
Austin makes a compelling case for inclusion and is realistic about the challenges he faces to convince the UEFA membership, but Jersey is bigger than a number of UEFA’s existing members and he feels they would sit very comfortably, for example, in Group D of the Nations League.
“Regardless of the outcome (of the vote) we want the opportunity to talk about the possibility of being an affiliate member, perhaps as a stepping stone to full membership,” said Austin. UEFA does not have an affiliate membership category as many other sports do. It is a canny suggestion, one that is worth considering and one that Austin brought up in his conversation with Ceferin. At the very least the conversation would keep the door open for Jersey.
What UEFA does not want are prolonged repeats of the kind of conflict that surrounded the adoption of Gibraltar and Kosovo into UEFA’s membership.
There is no danger of that with Jersey, not least because of Austin’s measured and thoughtful approach to the issues facing football on his island and his clear vision of what Jersey needs to develop its game. He now has five minutes in Bratislava to convince 55 members of the UEFA club that Jersey should be recognised as an equal and given that development opportunity.
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