On the morning of 3 September, 2018 the WMA President, Stan Perkins and Secretary,
Maria Alfaro, were called to a meeting at their hotel in Malaga with the Secretary General of the RFEA (Spanish Athletics Federation) Jose Luis de Carlos. Also present was Pierre Weiss who is the IAAF Representative on the WMA Council.
It was outlined that the Spanish Government had contacted the RFEA indicating that the country of Gibraltar was not permitted to participate in the Championship, and that the flag and uniform of that country were not to be displayed nor was there to be any reference to Gibraltar in results or other documents.. It was further indicated that failure to comply with this request could result in the Championship being stopped. The RFEA advised they had no option but to comply with the demand.
This news was a complete shock to WMA. WMA’s primary consideration was the more than 8000 athletes and an estimated 5000 additional accompanying persons, officials, volunteers and others that were arriving in Malaga. At the same time WMA was determined that the Gibraltar athletes, who were innocent victims in this matter, had to be given the right to participate in the Championship.
It was determined that the athletes would be allowed to participate as neutral athletes wearing a white vest in place of their national vest. This decision was advised to the athletes and the Gibraltar Athletics Association by emailed letter that was copied to the RFEA.
WMA has learnt that the conflict between Spain and Gibraltar has been on going for many years, at least dating back to the 1990’s. Perkins stated that it is lamentable that an event organised for older persons from over 100 world countries was seemingly targeted for political purposes. These Masters athletes come together to compete in athletic endeavour, to share and create friendships and enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle. The athletes are marvellous role models who undertake at their own cost all travel, accommodation and living expenses, and contribute significantly to the economy of the host city, region and country.