Cross Border Cooperation Can Work With or Without Brexit - If You Play the Game

ProACT Sam Explores Unions and Consequence of History in an Ever Changing World for Expats.

In the field of world football membership is open to sovereign countries to field national and club teams in tournaments. But then, as in anything in life, people are involved, treaties are made, compromises and quirks arise. 

Who Makes the Rules

In the EU Commission is the executive ‘cabinet’ running the show on a five year basis. The commission is appointed by the Council for Europe. Which includes heads of states and heads of EU organisations including the commission and other committees. 

The directly elected MEP sitting in the European Parliament do get a say - in approving the whole commission. All 28 (27) commissioners ( one per member state ). One vote of approval for the commission - all 28 - take it or leave it. A bit like voting in local elections for a local politician - it won’t make a difference in the great scheme of things, but you might get a new playing field. 

Football’s Union

So it is with the rules of association football. Rules are laid down by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) , an organisation  set up in 1883 and based in Zurich Switzerland.

FIFA the governing body of world football, also based in Zurich,  is a member of the board and has a 50% voting share in any rule changes. 

To change a law in world football needs a 75% majority.  

The outcome that rule changes tend to be small and considered.  The status quote is maintain by the constitution of the voting rights - as is the Constitution and make up of the the EU. 

Set Up To Remain The Same

The IFAB includes ‘the founder’ of Association Football the FA. Not the ‘English FA’ but ‘The FA’.  To the English at the time they invented association football and made up the rules. 

In 1883 the United Kingdom of Great Britain was a world power like Russia, China and USA are today. Except there was only Great Britain as the one world power. 

Even so the UK was still quite new.  Depending on which date you wish to choose. Let’s say the treaty of 1706 when the Kingdom of Scotland was joined with the Kingdom of England. 

The Prince of Wales had already fallen under English control in the 13th century. A fate avoided for Scotland by Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.

In 1883 Ireland was, let’s say, occupied by the British and the whole of Ireland, being controlled by Britain, was deemed part of this United Kingdom. 

Irish eyes were smiling when an additional treaty in 1800 the act of union to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  

Making it Up - One Rule for Four

So United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was still quite new in 1883 when association football was being introduced to the world by the English. As a world power the British , with its 4 home nations, decided each would have a seat on the IFAB board- with voting rights. 

So the full IFAB is made up of FIFA 50%, the FA, the Welsh FA, the Scottish FA, and the Irish FA. 2 or more of the Home nations’ FA need to vote with FIFA to change any laws in football. 

Laws tend not to change. 

Irexit from the Union

Now the Irish FA was all Ireland in 1883. In 1920 the Irish were granted the right and allowed to Exit the Union of the United Kingdom. 

Irexit was a most fractious of exit from the union dividing  opinions on both sides of the border as well as involving other European states and religions. The Protestant English were distinct from Catholic Ireland. 

There was much debate, unrest and rioting in the streets. Armed up risings. 

The French has even sent troops to an Irish rebellion in 1796. 

Eventually a withdrawal treaty was agreed  the Irish State was released from the constraint of the Union and allowed to become a free independent and sovereign state. 

To be sure Irexit from the Union with the UK has benefited both countries. 100 years later the UK and Ireland are each other’s biggest trading partners and there is a free movement treaty for Living and Working Abroad between UK and Ireland. So all is well there then. 

This includes a Common Travel Area allowing UK and Irish citizens to freely move between countries Living and Working Abroad.

Still a Border Issue 

Back at the IFAB the Irish FA kept their seat on the board of international football rule making. The British kept the ball though after Irexit in 1922. 

A separate new Republic of Ireland FA was created. The table top football seat was retained by the renamed Northern Ireland FA. 

And so a devolved home country with a population of 1.8million managed to acquire by negotiation and consequence a seat of power and influence to control the rules of world football. 

Like Luxembourg ( population 590k) within the EU,  as a founder member of the the EU in 1957, and provider of the President of the current EU Commission Jean Claude Juncker. 

Juncker was also the longest serving European Head of State -1995 to 2015. 

Juncker was also president of the Eurogroup 2005 to 2013. The Eurogroup is the IFAB of the EU. It polically controls the Euro - the money rules - in the EU. 

Funny how the small parts of a Union can wag the dog. 

But it works. There are winners and losers. Changes occur over the years.  Names evolve as treaties are amended and updated.

EU Brexit for Expats is much the same and we are yet to discover the final format. History tells us that the little guy will hold sway. 

Cross Border Deals

Life goes on and once a treaty is signed and sealed, life will go on.

The EU Withdrawal Treaty is signed off by the EU Commission President Juncker and UK Prime Minister, May be?

The Union of the United Kingdom between Scotland and England was signed by the ‘KING’ as head  of state of each kingdom, and the new king of the United Kingdom.  That would be Queen Anne in each case then, favouritism and self interest at work?

Family and Busiesss Living and Working Abroad or Relocating Overseas will have new rules.  

This will bring some quirks.  Life will go on.

In Association football we find agreements that allow difficult situations to evolve and find a way forward. 

City states San Marino, Andorra, Leichtenstein find a way to field an international football team through FIFA, and live, work, trade within the EU without the doom and gloom scenarios circulating around Brexit.  

Gibraltar and Kosovo have a way to field ‘national’ teams under FIFA without being fully ratified sovereign states.  

Berwick a town in the very north of England play a football team in the Scottish leagues since around 1905. 

The big professional league football teams in Wales play in the English leagues. Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Wrexham and Merthyr Tydfil for their self interest so as to benefit from the richer English football league pyramid.  

There are no Northern Irish Teams playing in the UK football league pyramids.  

There is a Northern Irish football team Derry City that play in the Irish football league City. 

Londonderry like Berwick is within a couple of miles of the Border - England Scotland within the Union of Great Britain and between Northern Ireland and Ireland within the Union of Europe. 

It is entirely possible that Derry FC  will find a way forward after Brexit to continue within the current Irish league system. 

Self Interest Vested in Brexit

There is lots of noise being made by vested interest around EU Brexit for Expats. There will be change. 

Just like the Kingdom of England has evolved though Greater Britain to Be the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  

The EU has evolved from 6 countries in Northern Europe to become a 28 country trade body with a currency extending from Portugal to Estonia, Ireland to Cyprus. 

Step Changes

Every step involves change. The structures created by the treaties agreed will create quirks and work arounds. It will leave pivotal people and organisations with a disproportionate influence. In the long run things will be ok - until they change again. 

EU Brexit for Expats means considering what we know and making the best plans for family and business for the changes ahead.  There will be winners and losers. We still have a chance shape our future life, to protect property and investment assets down the generations, to protect income and pensions from cross border taxation, to devise and develop ways to develop and grow business overseas. 


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