History of the Gibraltar Football Association

There is abundant evidence to show that football was played on the Rock in the early 1800's on an ad hoc basis between the various military regiments and visiting naval vessels. The popularity on the sport amongst military personnel was not reflected in the local population for a number of reasons until many years later. It is not known with exactitude when the first civilian teams were formed but certainly there was a Prince of Wales team in existence by 1892 and the Gibraltar Football Club, made up of cricketers who wanted something to do in winter, was formed in November 1893. By 1895 there was sufficient interest in football within the local community for the Gibraltar Civilian Football Association to be formed. The Association is one of the ten (possibly sixth) oldest football associations in the world.

Between 1895 and 1907 the only competition known to have been organized by the Gibraltar Civilian Football Association was the Merchants Cup. This cup, as the name suggests, was donated to the Association by the Merchants of Gibraltar to be played on an annual basis by teams form the local civilian community who registered with the Association. The final of the first ever Merchants Cup between the Gibraltar Football Club and the Jubilee Football Club was witnessed by 1,500 spectators. As there was no civilian playing ground in existence during this period teams, in between the annual Merchant Cup competition, had to satisfy themselves with playing friendlies against military teams whenever the opportunity to do so arose.

It was in 1901 that the first known match between a Gibraltarian representative side and a military side occurred; the local representative side easily winning the match. Since then the national side has played against innumerable teams both civilian and military, professional and amateur.

In about 1902 it is known that the military authorities designated one of the four military football grounds at the North Front as a civilian ground. It was only after the provision of such a ground that local teams began to play between themselves on a regular basis outside of the Merchant Cup competition.

In October 1907 the Gibraltar Civilian Football Association began its first ever league competition for local teams. The military had had a number of well-established league and cup competitions for many years but local teams were not allowed to compete in them. This first league competition was composed of eight teams and proved to be a great success, it being won by Prince of Wales FC.

The growing success of the league and Merchant Cup competitions was reflected in an increase in the number of teams that began to be formed and register with the Association. By October 1909 there were sufficient teams to form two divisions and by the end of the 1909-10 season the Association was organizing a league for the Senior and Junior divisions as well as a cup competition for said divisions. The growing success of the Association was also reflected in its affiliation with the Football Association of England in 1909.

The Gibraltar Civilian Football Association, which many years later changed its name to the present Gibraltar Football Association has continued to grow its roots and promote the sport within the Rock.

The period 1949 to 1955 is generally regarded as being the golden era of Gibraltarian football. It was during this period that teams such as Real Madrid FC, Atletico Madrid FC, Real Valladolid FC, Beogradski FC, Wacker FC, Admira FC and others came to Gibraltar to play against our national squad who acquitted themselves admirably against professionals despite being amateurs; the 2-2 draw against Real Madrid FC in 1949 being perhaps a good example.

During the many years the Association has been in existence there have been many teams which have been created and after a number of years have, for one reason or another, disappeared. Teams such as Celtic FC, Newcastle FC or Union Jack FC have come and gone thereby illustrating the amateur status of the membership of the Association. However, there have been other teams such as Prince of Wales FC, Europa FC, Britannia FC and Gibraltar United FC who have been the backbone of the Association and have continued in existence for decades. This mix has ensured continuity and sparkle to the competitions run by the Association and has resulted in the love of the sport being kept alive on the Rock during 106 years of the Association's existence.

The direction the Association will take in years to come is very much dependent on its pending application for membership of UEFA. The Real Federacion Espaņola de Futbol has objected to said application on grounds which in the Association's view are clearly and purely political in nature. It is the decision of the Executive Committee of UEFA which will decide whether the Association can move forward with the development of the sport and look towards a brighter future.