The Lagan Valley MLA stated: “There are a number of reasons why this decision is fundamentally wrong. It bases eligibility on citizenship, where it has previously been based on birth, lineage and residence. It opens up a can of worms across Europe – with the potential for Romania-born ethnic Hungarians opting for Hungary, or Estonia-born ethnic Russians opting for Russia.
“The biggest problem about this farcical plan is that it has the potential to sectarianise international football on the island of Ireland. There is a massive danger that Northern Ireland might become the team for Ulster Protestants, and the Republic of Ireland could become the team for Irish Catholics. The ongoing community relations work of the IFA will go to waste. The recent success of our religiously mixed Northern Ireland team will be endangered. We will have another source and cause of division.
“This bizarre plan plants politics firmly in the centre circle of the football pitch. This cannot and must not be allowed to happen. FIFA should know better. Politics should be kept out of sport. Sport should be a uniting force not a factor for division.”