Worthy goes for Bruce, signals end to eligibility hostilities

A number of sure signs that the football eligibility row has been permanently resolved could be detected in recent weeks. Firstly, there was the news that Northern Ireland manager, Nigel Worthington, was actively pursuing former Republic of Ireland international, Alex Bruce, as a prospective Northern Ireland international for the future. Bruce’s Republic caps were earned in friendly matches, making him still eligible to represent another international side. 

This news has been apparently confirmed by the BBC tonight, indicating that Nigel Worthington and the IFA have effectively signalled the end of hostilities regarding the eligibility affair. The IFA were already facing the charge of hypocrisy regarding their opposition to northerners opting to leave the IFA structures to represent the Republic of Ireland due to the fact that several of the Northern Irish players previously represented other international sides. But this move, coming after the argument has effectively been settled by FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sports, should be viewed as the closing of the chapter.

Secondly, the news that Sinn Fein’s DCAL Minister has signalled her willingness to attend a Northern Ireland international fixture at Windsor Park indicates that Sinn Fein leaders are clearly of the belief that the eligibility row is over.

I came across this document by Daniel Collins during the week and, given the confused nature of many of the contributions on Slugger and elsewhere with regard to the entire eligibility dispute, it is well worth the read.

  • I love it when a plan comes together. 🙂

  • ayeYerMa

    Chris, just because YOU want NI supporters to give up on the poaching issue does not mean it is over when YOU say it is.

    The rules should be applied equally, whether a player has a British or Irish passport.

    If a NI-born player wishes to play for another British team then they must have a parent/grandparent from the territory of the association, or have lived on the territory of the association for 2+ years.

    If a NI-born player wishes to play for another Irish team then they can be poached instantly.

    Funny how the Shinner mantra of “equality” doesn’t pop up here! This issue isn’t going to die until fairness in player eligibility occurs. FIFA supporting fair play my ass.

    PS: Alex Bruce is not from the Republic – he is an English-born player with a grandparent from Northern Ireland, so the IFA are playing fair by selecting him.

  • Henry94

    Good luck to young Bruce. It certainly should mean the end of the dispute with the right of the individual to the broadest reasonable choice being the correct outcome.

    ayeyerma

    A player born in the north may qualify for England by virtue of the granny rule but they qualify for Ireland by virtue of being Irish.

  • Danny Invincible

    AYM; FIFA’s rules are being applied equally and universally.

    In usual circumstances, the possession of a permanent nationality not dependent on residence is how a player qualifies to play for a particular association, irrespective of where they were born (see article 15 of FIFA’s Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes). This is how northern-born Irish nationals qualify to play for the FAI and how most players qualify to play for their particular association around the world. Jurisdiction or territory does not come into player eligibility save in exceptions to the general rule where a player might be acquiring a new nationality or where he might be representing an association that shares a nationality with another association. That exception includes the IFA as one of the four British associations that share the one British nationality.

    You should invest a bit of time in reading this for a better understanding of the rules: http://playereligibilityinireland.blogspot.com/2011/06/fifa-player-eligibility-in-context-of.html

    And if the IFA are playing fair by selecting Bruce – I don’t dispute that they are, but I’d like some consistency on the part of the IFA and NI fans – then why all the bluster about the FAI apparently “poaching” players who’d played for the IFA? It’s hard to know what the IFA and NI fans are complaining against when they’re engaging in such blatant hypocrisy. Is it just the right of northern-born Irish nationals to declare for Ireland that you object to altogether? If you’re happy to select Bruce, I don’t see what difference it should make if an Irish player was or wasn’t in an IFA youth set-up before opting for the FAI.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    Ayeyerma

    What absolute rubbish! The issue was settled a long time ago. The IFA wasted a lot of time and even more of their money in taking this to FIFA and CAS and lost.

    Of course we have all the usual suspects constantly on here whinging about it. The fact that Worthington is taking advantage of it is fine by me. In fact, I haven’t heard 1 single RoI fan whinging about it – unlike the NI fans.

    As far as I’m concerned, when a player makes their choice – that’s it. If they opt for the North, that’s fair enough – good luck to them. It seems to be NI fans who have the problem, no-one else.

    And, as has been pointed out before, if Catholic fans and players hadn’t been treated so badly over many years, you probably wouldn’t have such a big problem.

    I admire the genuine NI fans who were behind the football for all campaign. They realise and admit! how bad things were before and are trying to improve the situation. That’s the sensible thing to do.

    Unlike the usual parade of whingers who try to pretend that Windsor was always a fine examaple of non-sectarian cross community support. Even Kate Hoey scuppered that lie good and proper on national TV a few weeks back.

    The bottom line is that players from the North can opt for either team and I accept that. If you have a problem with people seeing the RoI as our team and opting for them, that’s too bad.

    There is no way that the IFA can get anything overturned and, if Worthingtom uses the rule to NI advantage and the IFA continue to whine about it, they’ll just look even more stupid than they do already.

    Like I said, the real NI fans who are trying to improve things (and have had some success) have my respect.

    At least they admit the reality of the past and are dealing with the reality of today.

    The reality is that the die is cast. As far as I can see, the IFA have 2 choices – they can move on and try to make playing for NI an easier choice for Nationalists or they can continue to whinge about it and achieve nothing.

    It would seem, if they pursue Alex Bruce, that they may be realising that they should just get on and make the best of it.

    I’m sure we’ll continue to have the usual parade of whingers and deniers on here. Let’s see how far that gets them.

  • PJ Maybe

    And donnelly can barely contain his glee. Even a cursory glance at the response from the “North’s” (sic) support should tell you all you need to know how well Worthington’s approach to this unprincipled shyster – a player who, in their own words claimed when he picked the soccer team from the seccesionist construct over Northern Ireland “I had the choice of both the Republic and Northern Ireland, but to be honest I didn’t even know I qualified for the North until they called me up. But I’d very fond memories of USA 94 and the supporters, so when opportunity arose to play for the Republic, it was a very easy decision to make.
    “It was a great feeling making my debut for my country, one I’ll never forget.” “But I think I’m going to pick the Republic purely because I think they are a better team. That’s no disrespect to Northern Ireland.”

    As for that polemic about eligibility? Just because it coincides with your inaccurate reading of the detail doesn’t make it right.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    PJ Maybe

    “Inaccurate Reading of the detail?” I think you’ll find that it was the IFA’s reading of the detail that was inaccurate.

    They whinged about it to FIFA (expensive barrister and all) and they lost – no dispute, not open to interpretation – lost.

    They then went to CAS which is the last resort and they lost again – not an opinion – a fact.

    The fact is that FIFA and CAS have ruled clearly in favour of the FAI – I see no desire from the IFA to waste any more time and money – only a lot of pointless whinging from NI “fans”.

    You and I and Chris (and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all) can interpret the rules any way we like. It’s not worth a s**t. The only interpretation that counts is FIFAs and that is clear.

    If Alex Bruce is eligible to play for NI and opts to do so, then the best of luck to him. It seems beyond a section of NI “fans” to accept the rules – that’s their problem.

    If this signals the IFA moving on and trying to deal with the reality of the situation, that’s a good thing IMO.

    It’ll certainly achieve more than sitting around denying the disgusting treatment dished out to Catholic players and fans for many years and whinging about why Catholic players having the right to opt for the RoI and doing so.

  • Neil

    The argument is over as Monk says, the only people not getting that are NI and their fans. Just because a decision goes against God’s chosen people doesn’t automatically mean it’s some kind of mistake that’s bound to be undone. I reckon it’s the residual feelings of entitlement felt by NI prods, after decades of having everything their own way, marching wherever they please etc. and anytime anyone tried to stand up for themselves having their own police force available to come in and crack skulls for them, they’re having difficulty adjusting to the new dispensation.

    It’s like someone having been tried and convicted for a crime and having them talk about their trial like it was in the future. You’ve lost, do try to catch up. By all means continue wasting what little money you have though, on attempting to prove yourself right (and ROI fans, players, FIFA, CAS and the rest of the world wrong) again.

  • eddie poole

    Delighted to see that we have got one back from the beggars, Hopefully more will follow.

  • chewnicked

    In the current NI set-up from U-17 upwards, there are players born in Cyprus, Canada, England, Germany etc. A number of the current players played for England and the Republic before settling on the North. Good luck to them all as they have done nothing wrong. It is only sport after all. However in light of the Bruce development, surely it is high time for the IFA to stop their tedious MOPEry and bleating?Scoring the odd goal and winning the occasional match might be a welcome change of tactics for Nigel and to that end I hope that Worthington’s ongoing atempts to poach highly-rated English starlet, Conor Wickham, are successful.

  • ayeYerMa

    The issue is far from over. If the IFA had a bit more brains they’d do the following:

    1. accept the “compromise” by FIFA and the FAI to allow all players with RoI nationality to play for Northern Ireland.

    2. This should trigger the same FIFA rules for the multiple British teams. i.e. players born in NI could play for the FAI team only with a parent/grandparent from Republic or lived in Republic for 2+ years. instantaneous poaching problems sorted.

  • john

    ayeyerma

    The IFA were offered compromise 1 and didnt take it probably feeling more Northerners would declare for the Republic than the other way round so go moan at the IFA for their usual incompetence. As for your other point as to why any UK citizen cant play for any Uk team – I think you will find if that was allowed then the home unions would soon be finished and only a UK football team would be left. We only have to look at the recent TeamGB football saga for the olympics to realise that none of the celts are interested in that.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    John

    Absolutely spot on.

    The reason that there was no support for the IFA from the EPL or SPL was (apart from the fact that no-one in those organisations gives a s**t about NI) that they didn’t want to great dragged into a fight with FIFA about a single UK team.

    FIFA offered the “compromise” as a face saver for the IFA and they weren’t even competent enough to take that.

    The fact is that the FIFA and CAS have ruled on this and that’s that. It does not and will not involve the English, Scottish or Welsh FA – They don’t give a s**t.

    As I said earlier, if NI ‘fans” wwant to moan about this – that’s fine. It will change nothing.

    The more sensible ones are trying to eliminate the sectarianism from NI support so as to maximise their chances of attracting players from a Nationalist background.

  • iluvni

    “The more sensible ones are trying to eliminate the sectarianism from NI support so as to maximise their chances of attracting players from a Nationalist background.”

    The ‘more sensible ones’ (as you put it) are appalled that the FAI (and Nationalist politicians) decided to tear up the agreement with the IFA, which stood for decades, and at a time when NI needed space to try and create an improved shared society, they decided it appropriate to initiate a policy which they knew would stir up massive controversy within football. The bigger picture didnt matter to them.
    A shared future…my fucking arse.

    Its a pity the IFA are lead by fools though. They’ve demeaned themselves and let down the fans, yet again, by rolling out the red carpet to Bruce. He made his choice long ago. That it didnt work out for him for the Republic is tough. We may not have the strongest squad in the world in NI, but its not improved by adding someone who rejected us first time around.
    He’s certainly not going to be welcomed with open arms.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    AyeYerMa / Iluvni etc

    You guys lost. You deserved to lose. Get over it.

  • stewart1

    ‘The ‘more sensible ones’ (as you put it) are appalled that the FAI (and Nationalist politicians) decided to tear up the agreement with the IFA,’

    Is this the agreement that never existed?

    No agreement or understanding was ever agreed to, FIFA confirmed this during the CAS hearing.

  • Secondly, the news that Sinn Fein’s DCAL Minister has signaled her willingness to attend a Northern Ireland international fixture at Windsor Park indicates that Sinn Fein leaders are clearly of the belief that the eligibility row is over.

    That is some bizarre reasoning there, because SF are prepared to send Caral Ni Chuilin (who after all is *our* Sports Minster too) to Windsor, then the “row” is deemed over…is that what you’re saying? Right.

    With regards to the Bruce decision, yet again the IFA has taken the rifle and merrily fired one big almighty bullet in its own foot.

    Couple of weeks ago on OWC there was a debate whether or not our team will exist in ten years time.

    I isolated what is the biggest threat to our future not as the defectors (two of whom anyway seem apathetic about turning up for their new country http://tinyurl.com/6f25jmc ); not as the potential poor quality of our side (for the size of our population we do better than we have a right to expect), not as the hostile FAI; not as the small minority of twats who continue to embarrass us when the situation demands and not even the atavistic and instinctive hatred felt by many towards us in our own country. Nope the biggest threat to our existence is the Irish Football Association. The association that runs itself with all the aplomb of a Mr Bean on a very bad day indeed.

    The argument about players born in NI defecting has been lost- no ifs and buts, not even much point now moaning about it. What is needed now is that

    1.Players at a youth and under 21 level are treated better and much more competently than before- rumours persist about both Gibson and Ferguson being upset at how they were treated by the NI management. Would they (and I’m a making an educated guess that Shane will) have stayed with us otherwise? Maybe not but we should not be making it easier for the FAI to attract them away.

    2.That FFA is moved onto the next stage, it’s gone as far as it can in its present form- anthems, flags and kicking those afore-mentioned twats as far as they can be possibly kicked when they disgrace us…in that regard the IFA showed their incompetence (or cowardice) last week.

    3.That it is made as difficult as possible for the FAI to take players from NI- no more cooperation, joint training schemes etc. If the IFA’s plan is that we are to be one team, then cooperate to your heart’s content… until then why make life easier for them?

    4.That we only select players born in NI or who have direct 1st generation family connection with our country.

    5.That players are asked at an early age (16?) before they are selected, whether they see their international future with NI or the ROI. Any doubt whatsoever in answering, then they are not to be selected.

    6.Consistency and self-respect.

    Which leaves us with Alex Bruce. I, and I’m sure a big majority of the NI support don’t want him anywhere near our team. By selecting the ROI, he’s made what should have been his final choice of country; once we start permitting such mercenary players to jump to our ship then we have lost whatever moral ground we ever had on this question.

    I don’t care if we lose every game as long as I have a team that I’m proud of and the IFA by giving Bruce a second chance is doing a mighty fine job of taking away that pride,

  • Billy Pilgrim

    oneill

    “I don’t care if we lose every game as long as I have a team that I’m proud of…”

    If they lost every game, what about them would make you proud? The mere fact of existence?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    (A good post, by the way.)

  • If they lost every game, what about them would make you proud? The mere fact of existence

    Yes, certainly that and despite everything (including the self-inflicted wounds) we’ve kept our principles.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    What principles?

  • john

    O Neil

    ”Couple of weeks ago on OWC there was a debate whether or not our team will exist in ten years time.’

    Is there a link to this debate would be interested to read the views.
    Cheers

  • Billy P

    What principles?

    That we have a team of players born in NI or with very close, family connections who are there not because we are the last choice on a long list of possibles but because they genuinely want to wear the shirt.

  • Danny Invincible

    “The ‘more sensible ones’ (as you put it) are appalled that the FAI (and Nationalist politicians) decided to tear up the agreement with the IFA, which stood for decades, and at a time when NI needed space to try and create an improved shared society, they decided it appropriate to initiate a policy which they knew would stir up massive controversy within football. The bigger picture didnt matter to them.
    A shared future…my fucking arse.”

    There was no “gentleman’s agreement”. CAS could not find evidence of it, the IFA could not provide evidence of it, the FAI denied existence of it, and FIFA denied all knowledge of it. Fair to say, one didn’t exist. Even if it had existed, FIFA’s current rules would have long superseded it.

    The FAI didn’t initiate any policy. They’ve merely accepted declarations from northern-born Irish nationals who volunteered and decided of their own free volition to play for Ireland. Anyhow, CAS highlighted that if the FAI were to reject a player’s declaration to switch, they’d be infringing on his rights as provided by articles 15 and 18 of the FIFA statutes.

    Part of a shared future is acknowledging and respecting difference, or is it just a shared future on unionist terms you’re talking about?

    (By the way, I’m the author of the above piece to which Chris refers in his last paragraph. Even reading the first third of it should give you a much better understanding of the current situation than the understanding you appear to possess right now.)

  • john

    Don’t know if you’ll be able to access this as a non-member:
    http://tinyurl.com/5sl3euc

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    O’Neill

    A good and thoughtful post.

    Were I a NI supporter, that would pretty much be the attitude that I would take.

    From my point of view, if a player opts for NI, then my interest in them ends. I don’t bear them any ill will – good luck to them.

    However, there seem to be a section of NI “fans” whose whole aim seems to be to tell Nationalists that we’re British and we have to play for OWC and stand for GSTQ (inc “No Surrender”).

    They clearly have a more “loyalist” agenda than a sporting one.

    And then they wonder why Nationalists don’t want to know.

    I love the way the NI fans talk about “poaching” – what rot. The FAI offer players of interest the option to play for the RoI – same as NI do with any player who may be eligible for them i.e. Norwood. There is no poaching – players have a choice and, once made that choice is respected.

    The IFA would be far better occupied concentrating on undoing the mistakes of the past and trying to remove the sectarianism from their support. I freely concede that some good work has already been done in this area but, as the more forward thinking NI fans on OWC admit, a lot more need to be done.

    Unfortunately an element of NI support seems to want to waste time denying the discrimination of the past and grumbling about how unfair everything is.

    That won’t move anything forward – in fact, it’s more likely to encourage Catholic players to opt for the RoI.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    oneill

    Fair enough.

    Good contribution.

  • lamhdearg

    “or have lived on the territory of the association for 2+ years”. fifa’s eligibility rules are a nonsense, in theory a country rich enough (say u.a.e) could entice the brasilian under 21 side, play them in the U.a.e league set up for a couple of years, and then turn them out as the U.a.e. national team. what a load of b****x. Cash is fifa’s god.

  • Hopping The Border

    “on attempting to prove yourself right (and ROI fans, players, FIFA, CAS and the rest of the world wrong) again.”

    Lamhdearg –
    “fifa’s eligibility rules are a nonsense”.

    Point proven illustration. OWC right, everyone else wrong, right?

    Eddie poole – perhaps you would elaborate on who or what the “beggars” you refer to are?

  • Will

    Does anyone else find it mildly depressing that footballers can now play in full internationals, albeit friendlies, for two nations? With the rules of residency etc it just undermines the international game in my opinion. I’ve read some interesting articles on the various “ringers” being brought in by some international teams like Qatar ahead of the World Cup there but that is a FIFA matter.

    On the subject of player poaching, as a Northern Ireland fan I don’t think the debate was ever framed properly by the people criticising the FAI. Too much emphasis from NI fans on Gibson etc being ‘traitors’ to their country when in reality it was the case of a small football association from a small nation being left in uncertain terms about their long term future. As I’ve said, the IFA is a small association compared to the FAI and the fact the FAI have the whole national pool of NI players available for them to pick from is a crazy situation and one which could only get worse over time for Northern Irish football as it becomes instituted. Not to mention the fact that the FAI has always made good use of the children and grandchildren of the mainland Irish ex-pat community playing professionally.

    I don’t even think its neccesarily about Nationalist/Unionist labels although obviously there are political dimensions to the debate. George Best came from a staunchly Protestant estate but, given his support for an all Ireland team, I’d imagine if he was playing today he’d prefer to play for the Republic as it would give him a better chance to turn out at a World Cup. Footballers today are more concerned about their careers than the politics of this country

  • stewart1

    Despite the promises of the IFA to ban ni supporters who were caught on camera singing sectarian songs in the Aviva Stadium, they have decided not to ban a single fan.

    I recall similar promises from the IFA when sectarian chants were directed towards Neil Lennon at Windsor Park nine years ago and nothing happened.

    It seems like the IFA are only paying lip-service to the issue.

  • pacman

    It’s unfortunately easy to see that this thread will probably descend into the usual whataboutery but in essence Danny defined the whole issue at the very start of his blog thread:

    “No disrespect to Northern Ireland, but I would rather be playing for my country.”- Shane Duffy.

    “It’s the best honour you can get to represent your country; it’s always been a dream of mine to play for Ireland.”- Marc Wilson.

    “It was unbelievable, you know, making the debut for your country. Everyone from Derry wants to play for Ireland. I grew up supporting Ireland, so it was a natural choice for me.” – Darron Gibson

    Regardless of anyone’s interpretations or reinterpretations of FIFA laws etc. CAS judgments etc. it all boils down to the above three simple statements. All politics aside, those of us born in Northern Ireland who declare themselves as Irish define our country as Ireland. Simple as………………….regardless of anyone else’s interpretation. Sorry, but c’est la vie.

  • Mike the First

    “Everyone from Derry wants to play for Ireland.”

    Hard to know where to begin with this comment from Gibson.

  • between the bridges

    stew1 ‘Despite the promises of the IFA to ban ni supporters who were caught on camera singing sectarian songs in the Aviva Stadium, they have decided not to ban a single fan.

    I recall similar promises from the IFA when sectarian chants were directed towards Neil Lennon at Windsor Park nine years ago and nothing happened.

    It seems like the IFA are only paying lip-service to the issue’….
    .
    indeed… just wondering how did the FAI get on with those fans chanting sectarian songs at the REP v NI game? did they even manage a lip-service statement let alone an enquiry?