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FIFA clarify ‘Passport’ ruling and players’ eligibility to play for National Association

Release Date: 25/05/2006

IN a definitive statement of 22 May 2006, addressed to the Chief Executive of the IFA, FIFA has clarified the situation regarding the eligibility of players “in the light of the rather exceptional circumstances that exist in Northern Ireland”.

FIFA have emphasized that it is the match commissioner’s duty to ensure that all players in a particular match satisfy eligibility requirements. The match commissioner is dependent on an official document to establish identity and prove nationality. FIFA explains that this procedure is carried out in all international matches. In cases of dual, or multiple nationality, and FIFA cites Switzerland as an example and emphasizes that players representing that country must play under a Swiss passport.

FIFA’s letter recognizes that in Northern Ireland the situation as a general rule allows those born here to represent various associations, that is the four British Associations. Bearing this in mind it complicates the situation for match commissioners even further. The mere fact that a person may be holding an Irish Republic passport, FIFA has ruled, does not provide conclusive evidence for a match commissioner to know that a player is entitled to represent Northern Ireland. An Irish Republic passport of a player born in Northern Ireland and entitled to Irish and British citizenship in accordance with article 1 paragraph V1 and in connection with the Good Friday Agreement annex 2, does not specify that this person has a birthright to hold British citizenship. Similarly, a player with a British passport seeking to play for the Irish Republic will not be able to demonstrate through this official document that his birthright also entitles him to play for the Republic of Ireland. FIFA have explained further that it is not realistic to expect a match commissioner to determine whether a player fulfils the requirements set out in Article 1 paragraph V1 of the Good Friday Agreement on the basis of information displayed on the passport, namely whether the player was born in the territory ofNorthern Ireland and whether at least one of his/her parents was entitled to reside in Northern Ireland.

FIFA sees no alternative but to require players to hold the passport of the National Association they are seeking to representin order to allow the match commissioner to verify their eligibility. The fact that a player holds an Irish Republic passport does not demonstrate conclusively, that he or she is eligible to play for Northern Ireland.

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