CAS orders FIFA to admit Gibraltar as member

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has told FIFA to transmit Gibraltar's application to become a full member to the FIFA Congress "without delay," opening the national team's path to play in the 2018 World Cup qualifying program.

The British Overseas Territory became a UEFA member in May 2013 but the Gibraltar Football Association was informed in September 2014 that it did not meet the requirements for admission to FIFA.

An appeal against the world governing body's decision has now been partially upheld, with CAS ordering FIFA's executive committee to transmit the GFA's application for FIFA membership.

A statement from CAS published on Monday read: "The panel has unanimously ordered that the FIFA congress take all necessary measures to admit the GFA as a full member of FIFA as soon as possible, within the limits of the FIFA statutes."

The GFA also asked CAS to directly award it with FIFA membership, but that request has been refused.

In response to Monday's announcement, the GFA said in a statement: "The Gibraltar FA is delighted at the outcome of our appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in relation to our FIFA membership application.

"CAS has ruled that FIFA has to take all the necessary steps to admit Gibraltar, without further delay, and as a result the Gibraltar FA will begin working with FIFA to make this happen.

"This is yet another momentous occasion for the whole of Gibraltarian football and we look forward to taking our place at the home of world football.''

Gibraltar's national team have endured a difficult start to life in international competition, failing to win a point during Euro 2016 qualifying. They conceded 56 goals in 10 Group D games, scoring only twice.

The congress of 209 FIFA members meets next week in Mexico City. The ruling means Gibraltar could now be fast-tracked into a 2018 World Cup qualifying group which kicks off in September.

The CAS judges insisted that the FIFA ruling council should act quickly. The council, chaired by new FIFA president Gianni Infantino, meets next Monday in Mexico City, four days before the congress has its annual business meeting.

It is a second victory for Gibraltar at CAS, after a previous ruling meant they could join UEFA in 2013.

The team from the British territory bordering Spain were prevented from joining FIFA before the World Cup qualifying draw made in Russia last July.

At a September 2014 meeting, the FIFA executive committee chaired by Sepp Blatter ruled that Gibraltar's "requirements for admission to FIFA were not met and that it would not submit the GFA's application to the FIFA Congress,'' CAS said.

FIFA and UEFA can easily slot Gibraltar into one of the two five-nation World Cup qualifying groups without adding extra fixture slots which are designed for the majority of six-team groups.

There is also space to add Kosovo, a former province of Serbia which declared independence in 2008 that is expected to join UEFA as a member in a vote on Tuesday of the 54 European federations, including Gibraltar, at their annual congress being held in Budapest, Hungary.

Kosovo's pending application to FIFA is on the agenda of the world body's council meeting next Monday.

FIFA had rejected Gibraltar's application because the British territory was not an independent country as required by the governing body's statutes.

Those rules were updated in 2013, two months before Gibraltar joined UEFA despite longstanding opposition led by Spanish football leaders. Spain disputes sovereignty of the territory it ceded to Britain more than 300 years ago.