Uefa chief has time for Jersey

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Speaking directly to JFA chief Phil Austin during a telephone ‘appointment’, Ceferin admitted that more open talks should have been held since Springfield officials submitted their membership application in 2015, and implied that further discussions could develop beyond the vote in Bratislava on 26 February.

However, the continent’s top-ranking football executive also said that European football’s governing body will not stray from its membership regulations, which currently rule Jersey out due to an apparent lack of legal independence.

‘Mr Ceferin rang me by appointment, and he was very familiar with everything having read our application,’ said Austin.

‘I explained to him the importance of football in Jersey and that we had looked at other possibilities, but we feel that Uefa is the best one.

‘Football is beginning to stagnate at senior level in Jersey, and if we don’t do something the buzz is going to go out of it. Our issue is that we’re being constrained from growing football in the way we want to.’

Austin continued: ‘We spoke of Jersey being recognised as independent in other sports, and that we’re sending a team to the Commonwealth Games to compete against the biggest countries in the world. No-one questions our independence there and it seemed as though he didn’t realise that. However, he said the executive have to stand by their statutes, and that the statutes can only be changed by congress.’

Uefa voted to alter the wording of their statutes in an attempt to keep Gibraltar out, but as the British Overseas Territory had applied before the change they were eventually granted membership in 2013. A further rule alteration has recently been made regarding the United Nations and independence – seemingly in response to Jersey’s application.

Austin added: ‘I made it clear to him that us losing the vote 55-0 would not be good for Uefa or Jersey. We would be seen as beaten and demoralised, while Uefa would be viewed as a governing body battering a minnow.

‘He didn’t give me any commitment, but I think he does accept that it is an issue for us and we both agreed that regardless of the result, we have to try and keep a dialogue open to find a solution.

‘Uefa’s number one value is about putting football first, so the focus here should be football, not legal issues.’

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