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BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – Jersey’s bid to become UEFA’s 56th member will be put to vote on Monday although the island’s football association says the aim was not trying to get regular glamour matches against Europe’s top national teams.
Phil Austin, president of the Jersey FA (JFA), said he wants Jersey’s top players to be able to play against sides of the same level rather than try to take on the likes of Germany, Spain and France.
He said that the JFA has done everything it can to develop football on the island but has effectively hit a dead end.
“We have a centre of excellence for boys, a development centre for girls, we’ve got 17 senior clubs which is great but it stops there because we live on an island,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview. “What we don’t have is regular external competition.
“If you’re a 28-year-old player here, you’ve probably been playing with the same players week in, week out for 15 years.
“We’ve been trying for some time to find a pathway which enables our players to play international football and represent the island competitively.”
UEFA often faces criticism about teams such as Andorra, San Marino and Gibraltar who play in its qualifying competition with the sole aim – in most games – of trying to keep the score respectable.
Germany coach Joachim Loew, in particular, has complained about too many games against minnows, something which Austin agreed was a fair point.
“I understand England and Germany not wanting to play us,” said Austin. “If we were in that (League of Nations) Group D with Andorra, San Marin, Gibraltar, Malta, Liechtenstein, it’s where we should be.”
He was happy to follow the example of cricket where Jersey has been accepted as a member of the International Cricket Council and plays in its fifth tier, and last year won a group featuring Vanuatu, Ghana and Germany.
Jersey first applied for UEFA membership in 2015 but was rejected by the executive committee.
The JFA appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which ruled that the application should be heard by the entire UEFA Congress which will take place on Monday in Bratislava.
The biggest hurdle is Article 5 of the UEFA statutes which limits membership to FAs which are based in a country “recognised as an independent state by the majority of members of the United Nations”.
In a letter to UEFA members, the JFA recognised it did not meet this criteria but said that also applied to some existing UEFA members.
It also suggested that UEFA could amend the article, which Austin said would help other islands and territories in a similar situation such as Guernsey and Greenland.
“When I spoke to the UEFA president (Aleksander Ceferin), I got a sense that he recognised they’re going to have to start talking to people like us because we are not going to go away,” said Austin.
Guernsey have formed a club with the island’s best players, known as Guernsey F.C., to compete in the English football pyramid.
“Guernsey have done that and good luck to them, it’s costing them a lot of money and it’s not the model we want to follow,” said Austin.
“What we don’t want to do is destroy our domestic programme,” he said. “We want to retain our domestic clubs and structure… and enhance it with international games.”
Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Sudipto Ganguly
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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