Irish FA can still win the eligibility war, vows Nelson
The Irish FA will employ a specialist legal team to carry their eligibility fight to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
And Association chief executive Patrick Nelson is confident that it’s a fight that Northern Ireland can win.
The IFA are challenging FIFA to enforce their own statutes and stop the Republic of Ireland from freely picking Northern Ireland-born players for their representative teams.
A meeting took place between the three parties last October, but with no agreement reached the Association’s Executive Board voted unanimously to take their case to the CAS.
There they will argue that holding an Irish Passport doesn’t qualify a player to represent the Republic if they don’t have a family bloodline south of the border.
“Articles 15 and 16 are the ones that we are wanting to debate,” said Nelson.
“Do they sit together — which is our strong belief — or do you take them separately.
“FIFA have taken the view that they can be taken on their own, despite 16 referencing 15 right at the beginning.
“We read it one way and the FAI read it another way and currently FIFA comes down on the side of the FAI.
“We think it’s important enough for us to go outside the family of football and use CAS because that’s what it’s there for — to get clarification. We’d prefer to resolve things with FIFA, but we can’t do that and we have to do this, it’s the right thing.
“We’re not CAS experts, it is arbitration as opposed to a court with judges. They will hear both sides and there may be hearings as well as written submissions.
“We will have a team and will need a specialist lawyer with CAS experience.
“We feel strongly and we will build our case as professionally and as diligently as possible and have a barrister with extensive CAS experience.
“It then depends on interpretation as to whether articles 15 and 16 sit together or separate.”
There is a risk involved in taking the case to CAS as there is no appeal procedure after that, but other legal routes may be open to the IFA if they don’t get the answer they want.
“There is pretty much no appeal. After that there is the possibility of going to court, but that’s not something that we are thinking about right now,” said Nelson.
“We will go to CAS and hopefully get the desired outcome there. It’s a fight we believe we can win,” he added.