Promoting growth in Gibraltar

Football in Gibraltar has flourished for over 100 years, and the Gibraltar Football Association – admitted to UEFA in May 2013 – has ambitious plans for the future

Promoting growth in Gibraltar
Promoting growth in Gibraltar ©Getty Images

The Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) was formed as the Gibraltar Civilian Football Association in 1895, and is one of the oldest national associations in the world.

Football is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most popular sport in Gibraltar. The game was first introduced to the country by British military personnel serving there in the 19th century. Although it is not known exactly when the first civilian football clubs were formed, there is evidence that at least one club – Prince of Wales FC – was already in existence in 1892. Another club, Gibraltar FC, was founded in November 1893.

Between the creation of the association in 1895 and 1907, the only known official football competition in Gibraltar was the Merchants Cup. The cup was donated each year by the merchant community of Gibraltar. The first ever Merchants Cup final was between Gibraltar FC and Jubilee FC – a game witnessed by 1,500 spectators.

A league competition was finally set up in October 1907. The first league competition featured eight clubs, with Prince of Wales winding up as first champions. A second division was added to the league competition in 1909 as more and more clubs were created under the auspices of the GFA. As early as 1910, the GFA was already organising separate league and cup competitions for adult and youth clubs.

The period between 1949 and 1955 is regarded by many as the golden era of football in Gibraltar. It was during this time that several famous clubs, including Real Madrid CF, visited to play against the Gibraltarian national team.

Although opportunities for exposure to international matches became fewer from the 1960s, the Gibraltarian national team was successful in winning the football tournament at the XII Island Games in Rhodes, Greece in 2007 – a competition featuring island nations and territories from around the world.

The GFA became provisional members of UEFA in October 2012, with full membership being ratified by the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London in 2013.

The Gibraltarian national futsal team participated in the UEFA Futsal EURO qualifiers for the first time in 2013. The team was drawn in Group A alongside San Marino, Montenegro and hosts France. The qualification tournament also saw Gibraltar's first ever win in official UEFA competition – an exciting 7-5 victory over San Marino. Gibraltar's U19 and U17 national teams participated in their respective qualification tournaments in October 2013, and the senior national team featured for the first time in the qualification draw for UEFA EURO 2016 in February 2014.

Gibraltar was admitted to FIFA at the world body's congress in May 2016. and was then included in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the first time in that same year, featuring in Group H alongside Belgium, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia and Cyprus. In addition, Gibraltar's U21 team is making its debut at this level in the 2017-19 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying competition. 

These are exciting times for Gibraltarian football. Not only will the GFA shortly embark on a flagship project developing a new national stadium, but the association is also already involved in carrying on the excellent work already undertaken in the area of grassroots, and is fully committed to developing the women's game. The GFA is enthusiastic about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

President

Michael Llamas

Michael Llamas
Michael Llamas©Pepe Martinez

Nationality: British
Date of birth: 4 November 1964
Association president since: 2015

• Michael Llamas is a barrister. He practised European law in Paris and then in Brussels from 1992 to 2007, before returning to Gibraltar. He has advised the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) and other sporting associations in Gibraltar in that capacity. In May 2015, he takes up the office of Her Majesty’s Attorney General for Gibraltar.

• Llamas was elected vice-president of the GFA in 2013, and president in March 2015. He was an accomplished football player in his younger years, having captained the Gibraltar youth teams.

• The new GFA president emphasised the continuing development of Gibraltar football, especially at grassroots level, as a direct consequence of UEFA membership. "Gibraltar has only recently (in 2013) joined the UEFA football family. Membership has required, and continues to require, a massive overhaul of the organisation of football in our country. It is a thrilling challenge, and one which the Gibraltar FA has embraced with enthusiasm and energy. We are determined to make our UEFA membership a success and stand ready to meet all the challenges that may come our way. Above all, it is of vital importance to devote time to the restructuring of football at grassroots level, since these are now the generations of Gibraltarians who will grow up in the world of UEFA membership”. Llamas was re-elected for a further four-year term in September 2017.

General secretary

Ivan Robba
Ivan Robba©GFA

Ivan Robba 

Nationality: Gibraltarian
Date of birth: 12 December 1982
Association general secretary since: 2020

• Ivan Robba graduated with a Masters in Law from the University of Leeds in 2005 and entered private practice shortly after. He first acted for the GFA in 2008 as part of his private legal practice, and became fully involved in the regulatory and structural professionalisation of the association when it was admitted into UEFA in 2013.

• In July 2014, Robba joined the Gibraltar Football Association full-time as its head of legal services and club licensing, and in 2016, as part of a restructure, he became the GFA’s legal director and deputy general secretary.

• Robba has been involved in football from a very early age. He played as a central midfielder and represented Gibraltar internationally in the era before the GFA gained UEFA membership. Since 2014, he has played international futsal in both European and World Cup Qualifiers.