Spain on Tuesday vowed to use all legal means available to block Gibraltar's bid to join UEFA, after European football's governing body granted provisional entry for the contested British territory.
"We are going to exhaust all legal means," Spanish culture and sports minister Jose Ignacio Wert said on Telemadrid television. "We are reasonably optimistic that this provisional membership will not become definitive."
UEFA's executive committee decided Tuesday to admit Gibraltar's football league as a provisional member, in line with a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
It is due to decide at a congress in London in May whether it will admit the rocky British Mediterranean outpost off the south coast of Spain as a full member, which would allow its teams to take part in European competitions.
Tiny Gibraltar, just 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 square miles) and home to about 30,000 people, previously won provisional membership of UEFA in December 2006.
But it was turned down a month later by a large majority in a UEFA Congress in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Gibraltar Football Association general secretary Richard Manning told AFP Monday there were still "quite a few obstacles" to full membership.
Entry to UEFA would be important to the territory, he said, allowing youth teams in particular to compete against other European teams.
The Gibraltar league comprises six teams in the premier division, 10 in reserves, 12 in the second division, three women's teams, and 47 junior teams from under-sevens to under-16s with about 600 young players.
Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty. Britain refuses to do so against the wishes of Gibraltarians.