The World Masters Athletics Championships began yesterday in Malaga ©Twitter/masteratletismo

International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe called for World Masters Athletics (WMA) to resist political interference and pledged support for Gibraltar after Spain reportedly prevented its athletes from participating under their own flag at an event in Malaga.

Athletes from Gibraltar were set to compete in the World Masters Athletics Championships in Malaga, which began yesterday.

The Government of Gibraltar “condemned the decision” after stating that athletes have been prevented from representing their own country in the competition, claiming it was "totally unacceptable".

They claimed the case was reminiscent of previous Spanish regimes, which blocked applications by federations in Gibraltar to compete under their flag.

This then translated into Gibraltar sportsmen and sportswomen being banned from flying their flag or wearing their colours in any international sporting events that took place in Spain, according to Gibraltarian officials.

In the past this has led to no flags being flown in certain competitions.

“The decision of the Spanish Government, through is Consejo General de Deportes (National Sports Council), to prevent Gibraltarian athletes from competing in a race in Malaga in our colours is a perverse vestige of a past of which modern Spain cannot be proud,” said Steven Linares, Gibraltar’s Minster for Sport.

“These are vetoes against our people which hark back to the time of the Spanish dictatorship and they belong in that time.

“We cannot build a strong relationship with our neighbours in this way.

“We must see nonsense of this sort relegated to history, where it belongs.

“Gibraltar sportspeople can rely on the full support of their Government and of their fellow Gibraltarians.”

IAAF President Coe urged the WMA to resist the move and allow athletes from Gibraltar to compete at the event under their flag.

“The IAAF supports Gibraltar's right to have its athletes compete under its nation's flag as they are a recognised European Federation,” Coe tweeted.

“We urge the WMA to stand strong against this political interference.”

Earlier this year the IAAF resisted a ruling from the Spanish Government, allowing the Gibraltar flag to be raised at the World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia.

The flag was raised by the seven Gibraltar athletes as they marched in the post-race IAAF ceremony.

An Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar from Spain in 1704 and nine years later the territory was ceded to Britain in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht.

Spain has never given up its sovereignty over Gibraltar, however, even though its 30,000 citizens overwhelming rejected Spanish rule in 1967 and 2002 referendums.