It is often said that politics and sport should not be mixed. Sometimes though, it is unavoidable. The judgement of the Court of Arbitration for Sport that we report on today is one such instance.
In it, a panel of seasoned arbitrators makes a series of observations that could have important wider ramifications for Gibraltar down the line.
In blocking the Gibraltar FA’s membership bid, FIFA deployed the same arguments that Spain has used in international fora including the EU and the UN.
Gibraltar, so those arguments go, is a disputed territory and as such must be excluded, not just from sporting bodies like FIFA, but also from international agreements such as the EU’s aviation packages.
But in assessing the GFA’s bid to join FIFA, the CAS panel found – as Gibraltar had been arguing for decades – that there was no such legitimate dispute.
In short, the panel found that there was no legitimacy to the position deployed by FIFA under pressure from Spain. It was a position that was both unjustified and unjustifiable.
This is the first time an international tribunal has made such a statement, even if tangentially, in relation to Gibraltar.
Despite being challenged by the UK in the past, Spain has never agreed to place its sovereignty claim before an international court.
Senior officials here including Attorney General Michael Llamas, QC, believe the principle set out in the CAS decision can be extrapolated generally.
They believe it sets an important precedent, namely that Gibraltar cannot be excluded on Spain’s whim from things it is legally entitled to.
Had the European Commission taken a similar stance to the CAS, important legislative packages in the European aviation sector would not have been stalled for months.
And lest anyone suggest that Gibraltar is mixing sport and politics, remember this: it was FIFA, pressed by Spain, which sought to stop Gibraltar’s admission.
As the CAS panel pointed out, Gibraltar was legally entitled to join football’s world governing body.
It was the arguments against that were political and discriminatory.