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Friday, October 23, 2015


In late May, the Danish daily newspaper Politiken published an article covering the possibility of Greenlandic football's governing body, the Grønlands Boldspil-Union (GBU) becoming a member of UEFA with the help of the Danish FA, or Dansk Boldspil-Union (DBU). Shortly after the article was published, in which it was revealed that both associations intended to pursue membership for the GBU via a road-map, Pat's Football Blog attempted to obtain the viewpoints of both the GBU and the DBU. Unfortunately, no response was forthcoming from the GBU, but former DBU president Allan Hansen was prepared to provide his thoughts on the subject, and did so in June.

Hansen, who was born in 1949, was himself an ex-footballer at amateur level, and refereed for six years until the mid-1980s. His attention then turned to football administration, and, after a period serving as president of the Fyns Boldspil-Union (the regional FA covering Fyn Island and a number of smaller neighbouring islands), he was elected president of the DBU in 2002. He is currently a member of UEFA's executive committee, a role which he himself describes as something which he does on an "advisory basis, an ambassador opening the doors to FIFA/UEFA/EU and the Danish Government and various foundations."

He was asked about the partnership between the GBU and DBU, and also about the possibility of financial assistance from FIFA for non-member associations. He explained that the GBU could only receive assistance via the DBU, which represents the football community in Denmark, Greenland's mother country, and gave the example of the now famous mini-football pitch in Qaqortoq.

"In my time as President of the Danish FA, from 2002-2014, we established a formalized means of cooperation between the Danish FA and the Greenlandic FA based on a collaboration agreement about education on all levels. As you know and as John Thorsen [GBU chairman] has expressed, the current conditions to play football in Greenland are very poor, therefore with an eye to creating better conditions for the GBU to develop football in Greenland we for years tried to help them to get the first artificial grass pitch and in 2009 the work succeeded.

"FIFA cannot grant financial services or any other services to a non-member and therefore the money (USD400000) for a pitch was granted to the Danish FA via FIFA's Goal programme and then the Danish FA together with the Greenlandic FA constructed the pitch in Qaqortoq in the southern part of Greenland. As well GBU as DBU hoped this pitch would have a rub-off effect on the construction of artificial grass pitches in Greenland, but such deals take time in Greenland; we still hope more artifical pitches will be constructed in Greenland - that will help to further develop Greenlandic football.

"From 2005 - 2012 I was a member of FIFA's Associations Committee and based on discussions in the committee FIFA in 2010 set up a working group headed by Geoffrey Thompson, FIFA Vice-President and Chairman of the Associations Committee at that time, to look at issues faced by small nations and territories not currently recognized internationally, with an eye to help develop football in non-member countries - and even though Greenland was not directly a part of that work, the FIFA Football Festivals in Greenland are a by-product of the working groups recommendations..Every summer, FIFA has been running the so-called "FIFA Football Festivals" in different cities in Greenland for boys and girls aged 6-12 to help develop grassroots football in Greenland.

"FIFA can’t provide financial services to non-member associations -that was one of the issues the working group headed by Geoffrey Thompson reviewed and representatives from the working group visited among others Tuvalu, Sint Maarten and Jersey. I’m no longer a member of the FIFA Associations Committee and I have no knowledge of the current status, but I think there is a genuine recognition and understanding of the international void these associations find themselves in.
Hansen was also asked as to the criteria needed for a national football association to become a UEFA and/or FIFA member, and the possibilty of not only the GBU, but also those associations governing football in, for example, Palau, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia obtaining FIFA membership.  "The challenge today is that as well the statutes of FIFA as UEFA stipulate that membership of FIFA/UEFA is only open to national associations based in a country which is recognized by the United Nations as an independent state - the same is valid in the IOC.

"The Faroe Islands FA who, in a way, are in the same situation as Greenland, was already a member of FIFA and UEFA when the current rule for membership was approved and Gibraltar who become a member of UEFA in 2013 achieved membership because Gibraltar already applied for membership in 1997 (FIFA) and in 1999 (UEFA) and therefore by order of CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] UEFA gave them a road-map that led to full membership status.

"The fact is that FIFA/UEFA today have members who are not recognized by United Nations and England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are recognized collectively under "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" but all members of FIFA and UEFA. That left Greenland (and other similar countries) in a gap which separates them from the international football family and that is why the Danish FA and I personally try to help the Greenlandic football to get support from both FIFA and UEFA to further develop football in Greenland.

"There are two criteria that stand in the way of admission. First and foremost "an independent state recognized by United Nations", but there are also a number of infrastructural criteria and therefore in the present situation i makes no sense to apply for membership. What the Danish FA together with the GBU are trying is to set up a road-map that over time hopefully can lead to membership. 

"My impression is that if a country fulfill all infrastructural criteria and the only thing missing is recognition of United Nations as an independent state then it will be possible to find a way - the first time round for instance by way of a partially membership status. That would also help to develop football in Greenland.

"It’s not an easy task to find solutions that can help these small associations, sports political issues tend to muddy the debate in some cases, but in the case of Greenland FIFA was successful in helping small associations and territories unable to gain recognition by FIFA so hopefully this could be recognized as a workable solution.
"Full membership for these small associations requires that some sporting and political issues must first be discussed and settled, but I believe there is a will to help developing football worldwide by the way of financial assistance to build facilities and bring the standard of football in these countries up to scratch and that could be a good help for these associations.
What about the previous attempt made by the GBU back in the late 1990s to obtain UEFA membership, and their chances of being accepted into the organisation in the near future (he also alluded to infrastructural requirements)?
"Concerning the GBU, I’m not convinced [they] officially applied for FIFA and UEFA membership at around the same time as Gibraltar. As I’m informed, the GBU in the late nineties sent a letter [requesting clarification on a number of issues] but..there were no follow-up actions.
"Therefore, in my opinion the status is still the same. Under present day conditions it does not make sense to apply for UEFA membership. The partnership agreement between DBU and GBU and a road-map for the development of Greenlandic football is necessary to pave the way for a membership in the long term.
"I can’t foretell what will happen in the future, but I have attended a meeting with UEFA, DBU and GBU and I'm convinced that the day DBU and GBU present a partnership agreement and a road-map for the development of Greenlandic football, UEFA will be ready to discuss options for supporting the development of Greenlandic football as well on football as on administrative level.
"If the infrastructure, including football facilities, hotels, airports and all criteria (organization, competitions etc.) apart from an independent state are fulfilled I believe UEFA will be ready to review a request for membership but it is the Congress who has the final decision.
"Greenlandic football is far from the European level, but they are enthusiastic and have a strong will to develop football even they work under very difficult conditions."
Discussions are ongoing between the GBU and the DBU, and the organisations signed an official partnership agreement in Nuuk on 13/10/15. There is the hope that four to six full-size artificial pitches will be laid in Greenland over the next few years, and this, together with other infrastructural improvements, will eventually bear fruit and herald the beginning of a new era in Greenlandic football.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks go to Allan Hansen for kindly providing his time and assistance, and, as ever, to Pia Schou Nielsen from the DBU for her help. Further attempts will be made to obtain the thoughts of the GBU on the road ahead.

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