This opinion was also published on the 3rd February 2017, again hidden within my social media pages. I now re-publish my views for others to read.
Opinion piece by Stephen Ignacio
We look at why consideration should be taken on who is selected to play for the Gibraltar national team beyond the “football skills” during a time in which Gibraltar development should be at the forefront of things and not results.
Gibraltar’s football fraternity found out the benefits of international football as it was revealed that over E809,087.19 was paid out by UEFA to eight local clubs.
The monies were paid for the participation of players in the national squad during the Euro group qualifies matches. Under a 2012 Memorandum of Understanding between ECA and UEFA a total of E150m from the UEFA EURO 2016 revenues was made available to clubs for their “significant contribution to the success of the UEFA EURO 2016 and national team football in general”.
In total, 641 European clubs from 54 national associations received a share of the benefits representing an 11.5% increase compared to the distribution during the UEFA EURO 2012. This was the first time Gibraltarian clubs benefitted from such payments, having joined UEFA in 2013.
It was significantly the first time that Gibraltarian clubs received any money under this scheme, representing to some a significant benefit from their investment in home grown players.
As expected it was Lincoln Red Imps, who have provided the bulk of the home grown players fielded by the national team who benefitted the most with E442,469.56.
Surprisingly the second biggest earner was Manchester 62 with E210,699.79 paid out to the club, followed by Lynx receiving E50,567.95.
Europa, who have only recently increased their home grown player numbers received only E37.925.96.
A total of eight first division clubs in Gibraltar received monies after allowing their players to form part of the Gibraltar national squad. This included Gibraltar United (E16,855.98, Glacis United E8,427.99, Lions E25,283.97, St Joseph’s £16,855.98).
The worrying prospect for Gibraltar football is nevertheless the monies that could have been invested directly into Gibraltar football but which went to other clubs who have little to no link to Gibraltar.
Four players, who have never had any presence in Gibraltar football, were present during the Euro 2016 group qualifier matches. None of the four had resided in Gibraltar, except for one who had been born in Gibraltar whilst his parents were serving in Gibraltar. However, under the rules governing the selection of players for the national squad all four were eligible to play for Gibraltar. Except for one player within the top four tiers of the English league, the rest played in non-league clubs.
Artell, Wiseman, Preistley and Gosling earned their clubs monies which they might not have otherwise have seen were it not for these players distant link to Gibraltar.
Artell took to Bala Town over 21,000 euros, whilst Priestley took to Farsley over 25,000 euros. Wiseman took to Preston North End 25,000 euros with the biggest earner of them all being Gosling who took to Bristol Rover over 42,000 euros.
All in all over 100,000 euros was handed by UEFA to non-Gibraltarian clubs for players who had been selected for Gibraltar due to their eligibility and not due to any close link to Gibraltar football.
Whilst many would argue that the selection process should not be questioned the need to revise the cost of participation against the cost of development becomes a crucial factor.
With clubs in Gibraltar very much reliant on benefits obtained via UEFA and FIFA membership the presence of Gibraltar in international tournaments that pay out for the use of players should be considered as another means through which Gibraltar’s football development could benefit.
The recent introduction of the home grown player rules has significantly increased the number of minutes Gibraltarian players get to play in their own league.
However, whilst the GFA introduced the HGP rules to create an avenue for greater choice, national team selectors have continued using players distant links to Gibraltar, let alone any link which would directly benefit Gibraltar’s football development. To the point that recent reports indicated that the search for such players was still ongoing. In one instant recently a report in the media claimed that a call for players with a link to Gibraltar in the US had been made.
Importantly the most significant amount earned, that of Gosling was earned with the player selected only five times out of the ten matches he was involved with the squad as one of the first eleven players during the Euro qualifiers. A fact that would not sit well with local clubs looking to invest in the development of players with none existent profits and mainly based on funds given by sponsors and benefactors, UEFA or the GFA.
Whilst 42,000 euros, in the overall scheme of things, might not look much when speaking about football it is a major coup for any club in Gibraltar to receive. Clubs run youth teams with similar amounts developing Gibraltar’s football prospects for the future through it. Investing in a Gibraltar based player could significantly increase the investment into youth schemes if clubs decided to use the monies for club benefits and not solely as payments to the player involved.
It could also create a more lucrative scenario within the football league which would allow for it to increase its potential as an employer. Importantly, it could allow players to seek new pastures using the benefits of being signed up by clubs playing at a higher level knowing that the player could provide a return if he continued his development and played at international level.
As a collective, and in a dream scenario, clubs could also reinvest the money back into the league to develop facilities such as playing fields, training grounds, even coaching.
Artell – Bala Town (Welsh league) E21,069.98
Gosling – Bristol Rovers – E42139.96
Wiseman – Preston North End – E25,246