THE Irish Football Association is to seek legal advice over a suggestion that players from Ireland could opt to play for either Northern Ireland or the Republic.
Governing body FIFA put forward the proposal after a long running dispute over the Republic of Ireland's call-up of Londonderry-born player Darren Gibson.
He had elected to switch to the South after representing the Province at Under-16 level.
FIFA's executive committee will make the final decision about the proposal.
But Irish Football Association chief executive Howard Wells said yesterday that it was "totally inconsistent with the body's own rules which apply to the other 206 countries in FIFA".
He said that he was "staggered" to learn of the news: "I am extremely surprised about this, to say the least, staggered in fact," he said.
"All we are asking is for FIFA to apply their own rules consistently to all members of their organisation.
"This proposal flies in the face of what was said to us just a few weeks ago at a meeting in Zurich."
FIFA's legal committee had written to IFA officials in Northern Ireland and their FAI (Football Association of Ireland) counterparts in the Republic outlining their view and requesting feedback.
Its stance has been welcomed by the FAI.
The organisation said in a statement: "We are pleased that FIFA has once again upheld the principle that players born in Northern Ireland should be free to choose whether they wish to play for the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.
"The FAI will now meet with its legal advisors to review in detail the proposals contained in the FIFA letter before formulating a response."