Mark Viales


Continued from previous edition


The Gibraltar FA is said to have ignored the Malta FA’s advice on a ‘perfect football formula’ for small nations prior to UEFA acceptance that would have protected local players. This is according to former GFA Manager Allen Bula, who was part of the local delegation fully-paid by UEFA sent to the island back in 2012 on a fact-finding mission.

“The MFA President dropped a huge file containing all the administrative information the association had been working on for years to optimise Maltese football,” he said. “He gave us permission to merely change the ‘M’ for a ‘G’ in the document and use it as we would have seen fit.” 

Bula believes this was a perfect model for Gibraltar that included a cap of a maximum of five foreign players and was eager to explore how it could be implemented.

“They – the GFA council- told me that they knew how to deal with local football better than anyone else, or so they thought,” he said. “The administration knew full well of the dangers of foreign players and possible foreign investment inundating our game, and if they didn’t, then they shouldn’t be in football.”

Indeed, six years later we are now seeing a drastic dip in youth performance when compared to the initial crop of youngsters making their way onto the scene. The opposite should have been the case with steady improvement and youth players benefiting from quality coaching and facilities.

The association spoke of setting up an elite academy for youngsters that would work with the clubs, but this has yet to come to fruition, despite the idea circulating even before UEFA admission. The new stadium should incorporate this setup but many believe this has taken way too long to come into effect.


Another GFA legend, Albert Buhagiar (Bubi), told PANORAMA last year that he was fully aware of the agendas harboured by local clubs only interested in qualifying for European competition at the expense of local players.

“We are focussing too much on these club competition because there is money involved. What we see in our local league now is mercenary football. There is no loyalty anymore.”

Bubi is of the opinion that the GFA have allowed themselves to be convinced by the owners of local money-making clubs who have their own agenda.

“Most of the GFA personnel know nothing about football. We are talking about government employees, accountants and bankers who are a far cry from the passionate and dedicated football people in the association prior to this administration. They need to look at the interests of all local football players too, not only the clubs.”

Bubi resented the fact that his work, along with the previous GFA administration, to introduce junior football, which resulted in a boom of young local players, has now been ‘thrown out the window’.

“It has been completely destroyed by this administration and they have a lot to pay for,” he said. “They have been detrimental to football on the Rock since they took over. They should be ashamed of themselves to hold those places in office and rake in those fat salaries.”


There have also been a series of betting scandals on the Rock involving players and a manager, most of them of Spanish nationality, but there were many early warning signs. In the first few years under the UEFA banner, Gibraltar was subject to millions of pounds of bets on local football, mostly originating from Asian countries. This should have set alarm bells ringing and more stringent measures should have been implemented, such as more education on illegal betting, conflict of interests and the vulnerability of a newly established semi-professional league to the external dangers of this industry. It was almost inevitable that this type of incident would occur due to the lacklustre nature of the GFA in providing information and, furthermore, combating the situation.


The Gibraltar FA conceded last year that it had not done enough for local women’s football, which is on the brink of collapse following a mass exodus from the sport. The number of registered girls and women taking part in football fell by a third from 180 players to 60 players in recent times. Beiso made the comments during a GBC Viewpoint programme on the back of the announcement of an international tournament co-hosted locally but without Gibraltarian involvement.

“If I am completely honest and hand on heart then we have fallen short this year. We need to pull our socks up and get our act together in the new season,” he said. “We have come up against a lot of criticism when we announced the tournament and I think that a lot of it is justified.”

A former Gibraltarian international female footballer said she was not surprised by the decision to not include local participation in the tournament as ‘the ladies are used to it’.

“We are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to football, which is extremely detrimental to our development and discourages the players from future involvement,” she said. “We will still watch the matches because we love the sport, but we are gutted that we cannot take part. We wonder if the men would put up with what we put up with. It is heartbreaking to see that we cannot reach our potential because of a lack of support from the national association.”

The former international said the onus for the development of women’s football largely fell on clubs, of which only a handful have registered a women’s side in recent years. Coaches have also remained on a voluntary basis, which has often caused a team to dismantle due to other commitments.

“They have tried their best and I applaud everything they have done for women’s football,” she said. “But in the UK, like in other countries, the national association is the one that feeds qualified coaches to clubs. Had we had professional coaching since we joined UEFA, I think the state of women’s football would be a lot healthier.”


So the GFA must pull up its socks and, although the reshuffle is welcomed, it has been a long time coming. This is not the first time the GFA has had a major restructure and the learning curve has almost come full circle.

There is a toxic atmosphere within local football and many things need to change before Gibraltar can really make progress without sabotaging itself and hitting countless bumps on the road.

A little more humility is needed and perhaps more outside expertise within the higher executive. At least until those in the game locally are suitably trained to take Gibraltar football forward. Perhaps it may be a case of taking two steps back before looking ahead because the conditioning of bad habits will only fester and prevent real advancements from being made.