The 2019/20 Gibraltar National League will start with just 14 teams, after the Gibraltar Football Association confirm that Gibraltar United and Gibraltar Phoenix will no longer participate in senior football.
Photo © William Gracia
The news comes hours before the league gets underway and is a massive blow to the perceived stability of local football, especially given both sides were considered contenders for the top eight this season. Phoenix and Gib United become the 15th and 16th teams to withdraw from the 11-a-side game since 2009 (four years before UEFA membership came in to place), not including reserve teams who were no longer permitted to play in the senior system.
In a statement, the Gibraltar FA comment: “The Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) is disappointed to announce that two Clubs have withdrawn from competing in the Gibraltar National League.
The two clubs are Gibraltar Phoenix FC and Gibraltar United FC.
The Domestic Licences awarded to both Clubs are rescinded with immediate effect. Consequently, as per GFA Regulations, neither Club will be able to re-apply for membership of the GFA for a minimum period of five years.
Discussions with both Clubs have taken place to minimize, as much as possible, the impact on youth teams registered with either Club. In this respect, the GFA wishes to place on record its gratitude to Mr. Brian Brosco (Gibraltar Phoenix FC) and Mr. Adrian Ballestero (Gibraltar United FC) both of whom have shown tremendous honesty and integrity in their dealings with the Association, and who have consistently worked in the best interests of the young footballers at their respective Clubs.”
As a result of this, the league will split into two groups of seven, instead of eight as planned, after the first round of fixtures. A revised fixture list for the first two gameweeks can be found here.
The news also has a knock-on effect on the Gibtelecom Rock Cup as only 15 teams will enter the cup. As such, the new format sees Europa, as cup winners, given a bye to the Second Round, while the other 13 National League teams, as well as FC Hound Dogs, will start in the First Round.