Monday, 2 March 2009

FIFA offside on segregation?

With FIFA bigwigs in Northern Ireland to discuss rule changes, president Sepp Blatter has managed to reignite the IFA / FAI eligibility row. The Irish Football Association has
appealed on countless occasions to the world governing body, seeking an unequivocal ruling on the legality of northern players being recruited to play for the Republic of Ireland and the poaching of underage Northern Irish players by the southern association. FIFA has, on each occasion, responded with enough ambiguity that confusion has persisted.

At FIFA’s 58th Congress last year, it clarified rules which appeared to be governing principles for the Irish case. Two particular articles were relevant. Article fifteen pertained to nationality and Northern Irish players satisfied this requirement as regards eligibility for the Republic. However Article 16 covered, “nationality entitling players to represent more than one Association”. It demanded that, in addition to the requisite nationality, a player must either have been born on the territory of the association, have a parent or grandparent who was born on the relevant territory or have resided in the territory for at least two years.

Prima facie, the IFA was justified in its view that the matter had been resolved in its favour. Two problems remained. Firstly, FIFA had stated that it was simply clarifying eligibility laws and that no rule changes had been made. The current situation was undeniably that the FAI continued to poach players from Northern Ireland. Indeed, in the case of Darron Gibson, FIFA had endorsed the player’s decision to play for the Republic. Either the breakaway association had persistently contravened the laws, which FIFA had declined to enforce in its case, or the governing body interpreted its own rules differently to the IFA. Secondly, nationality which entitled a player to play for more than one association is not precisely the same thing as dual nationality. If northern players are being selected for the Republic on the basis of dual nationality (i.e. their British nationality is held irrespective of whether they wish to claim it or not), then the laws would appear to allow the situation to continue.

Now Blatter has responded to a question from the media by indicating that FIFA will adjudicate in favour of the FAI later this month. The basis is the ‘birthright’ of everyone in Northern Ireland to acquire ‘an Irish (sic) passport’. The logical extension of this view is that those who take a Republic of Ireland passport have tacitly accepted dual nationality. They retain British citizenship unless it is specifically renounced. It is a strange basis for an argument which, in Ireland, has been advanced almost exclusively from a nationalist perspective. However it is a more relevant contention, legally speaking, than spurious citations of the Belfast Agreement.

It remains the case that any FIFA ruling in favour of the FAI is effectively an endorsement of the two Irish teams segregation on an ethno-religious basis. In addition it serves only to undermine efforts by the IFA to make its games more inclusive events. Whatever your interpretation of FIFA’s rules, it is certain that they are not particularly clear. Neither do they appear to be consistently applied and it appears that they can be fudged whenever a political sensitivity arises. Despite what Blatter intimates Ireland is far from being an exceptional case. As an international organisation there are countless contested regions, disputed nationalities and ethnic sensitivities in areas where member associations operate. FIFA must be prepared to apply clear and consistent rules across all of them, otherwise disputes will repeatedly arise.

Meanwhile the IFA should take a long hard look at the legal advice it accepts. Equally it should re-evaluate its cooperation with a neighbouring association which is prepared to act without any decency and poach underage players in which its rival has invested time, money and expertise.

10 comments:

O'Neill said...

If the players deciding to plump for the Republic in any way reflect the same base sectarian attitudes and downright hatred as their bigotted cheerleaders are presently revealing on Slugger and elsewhere, then they are more than welcome to make their way down to play for the Republic's team.

But this bit is much more important, in the long-term:

Meanwhile the IFA should take a long hard look at the legal advice it accepts.

The IFA, with one or two honourable exceptions, is a joke. There needs to be a long serious self-examination over this and other fiascos or it's more than capable of "administrating" itself and football here out of existance.

Chekov said...

Effectively, O'Neill, the IFA has been campaigning for FIFA to uphold rules which were not in its favour in the first place. Farcical. Again. Add in Wells, Bowen, Glens v. Linfield Boxing day game banned, the £7m. Embarrassment after embarrassment.

Dec said...

"If the players deciding to plump for the Republic in any way reflect the same base sectarian attitudes and downright hatred as their bigotted cheerleaders are presently revealing on Slugger and elsewhere, then they are more than welcome to make their way down to play for the Republic's team. "

There were one or two idiots on Slugger, however most are relieved that this has been resolved sensibly. What I found most interesting were the links demonstrating the IFA's 'poaching' of English players and ongoing talks with the British associations regarding the future eligibility of foreign players who have settled in Great Britain. Talk about brass necks.

kensei said...

You were told this would happen and wouldn't listen. Now you have the worst of all worlds - an FAI armed with a 100% ruling in their favour and probably slightly pissed off that they were dragged into it ansd with every incentive to post.

Second - you cannot force people into the settlement you want. If you want people to identify with NI and not the Republic -- the desire to play for the Republic's team is a totally organic growth from that, the work is on you, not the FAI or FIFA or anyone else.

Third, you remain tone deaf to how Nationalism perceives this. The GFA is very relevant because it guarantees the right to be British or Irish, and avail of the citizenship of one or the other. That has to have consequences ot be meanignful. The IFA tried to nibble at the princinciple, and that attack strikes much deeper than the issue at the centre, which affects very few people. If you don't get it, then you ahve no hope.

Chekov said...

"Third, you remain tone deaf to how Nationalism perceives this. The GFA is very relevant because it guarantees the right to be British or Irish, and avail of the citizenship of one or the other. That has to have consequences ot (sic) be meanignful (sic). The IFA tried to nibble at the princinciple (sic), and that attack strikes much deeper than the issue at the centre, which affects very few people. If you don't get it, then you ahve (sic) no hope."

The Belfast Agreement does not do that. It makes explicit an existing right to consider oneself British, Irish or both. It also affords the right to take citizenship of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The former is not the same as the latter.

It certainly doesn't extend the remit of any ROI institution to Northern Ireland. And that includes the FAI. And the IFA did nothing contrary to the spirit, or the letter, of the Belfast Agreement.

kensei said...

Chekov

Congratultions on pickig up taht I have a few tpyos wen I type dfast at wrk. I am sure typing sic after each one is a productive use fo your time.

The Belfast Agreement does not do that. It makes explicit an existing right to consider oneself British, Irish or both. It also affords the right to take citizenship of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The former is not the same as the latter.

The two things are inextricably linked, to use the phrasing. It is not there to say well, you can be Irish as long as it doesn't affect anyone and no one has ot believe you. The citizenship passage is the expression of the identity passage: it has consequences.

It certainly doesn't extend the remit of any ROI institution to Northern Ireland. And that includes the FAI. And the IFA did nothing contrary to the spirit, or the letter, of the Belfast Agreement.

Oh but it did. International football eglibility is a matter of both nationality and citizenship: it isn't institutional. The GFA speaks quite clearly on both. I am an Irish citizen by birthright, and the IFA decided to take a little nibble at my citizenship. Thankfully they lost.

But the arguing until blue against it just reinforces the complete tone deafness of which I speak. This is "Ulster is British" writ small, and "Why don't you go live in the Republic if you like it so much" writ small. If you can't hear the echos or feel the discomfort even moderate nationalists would have with this then as I said, you've no hope.

Chekov said...

“Congratultions on pickig up taht I have a few tpyos wen I type dfast at wrk. I am sure typing sic after each one is a productive use fo your time.”

You must type all your Slugger posts very quickly as well. It’s a more productive use of my time than concentrating on the content of what you post.

“The two things are inextricably linked, to use the phrasing. It is not there to say well, you can be Irish as long as it doesn't affect anyone and no one has ot believe you. The citizenship passage is the expression of the identity passage: it has consequences.”

The citizenship passage is entirely separate from the identity passage and neither of establishes anything which wasn’t de facto the case already. Irish and Republic of Ireland are not interchangeable words.

“Oh but it did. International football eglibility is a matter of both nationality and citizenship: it isn't institutional. The GFA speaks quite clearly on both. I am an Irish citizen by birthright, and the IFA decided to take a little nibble at my citizenship. Thankfully they lost.”

The IFA and FAI are institutions which exercise a remit over a particular territory.

“But the arguing until blue against it just reinforces the complete tone deafness of which I speak. This is "Ulster is British" writ small, and "Why don't you go live in the Republic if you like it so much" writ small. If you can't hear the echos or feel the discomfort even moderate nationalists would have with this then as I said, you've no hope.”

Neither of those things are the case. But I certainly won’t accept that nationalists have a right to ignore Northern Ireland’s constitutional status, which is what is at the root of the argument from your perspective. If anything is being ‘nibbled’ at, it’s the accepted right of people here to determine whether Northern Ireland remains in the United Kingdom.

Incidentally, I’ve attempted subtly to impress upon you that I have no interest in your input on this site, but you are determined habitually to share your ill thought out offerings. By all means feel free to continue, but I wouldn’t expend to much time or energy, because I will be making liberal use of the delete option.

Anonymous said...
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Dec said...
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Mack said...
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