Top court upholds FIFA rule

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Sports' highest court upheld on Friday a FIFA ruling allowing players born in Northern Ireland to play international soccer for the Republic of Ireland.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed an appeal by the Northern Ireland federation, which claimed Ireland "poached" teenage forward Daniel Kearns. He was born in Belfast and played international youth matches for Northern Ireland.
CAS upheld FIFA's decision that Kearns had dual nationality and could choose which team to represent. FIFA's rules allow players with dual eligibility to switch sides before they play a competitive senior international match.
The Football Association of Ireland, representing the south, welcomed the "complete and final clarity" on the dispute.
"The ruling upholds the right of individual choice on this matter for players born north of the border," FAI chief executive John Delaney said in a statement, praising the "determination of Daniel Kearns and his family to uphold his right as an Irish citizen to play for his country."
Northern Ireland's federation was disappointed by the decision.
"We will continue to develop our very successful . . . community programs in the areas of grassroots, domestic and international football to ensure that anyone available to play for Northern Ireland will want to do so," Irish Football Association president Raymond Kennedy said.
The IFA has struggled to retain young players, with Kearns following Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson in opting for the south even though he, his parents and grandparents were born north of the border.
Northern Ireland is ranked 59th by FIFA and has not qualified for the World Cup since 1986.
The 36th-ranked Republic of Ireland has played at three of the past six World Cups, and traditionally has been more popular with Catholic residents in the north.
CAS said it would give its full reasons for the decision next week.