26 April ~ The story of the Great Britain Olympic football team has had so many twists and turns, claims and counter-claims over the course of the past few years. Yet there are still officials at the FA and the British Olympic Association (BOA) that fail to recognise the threat the team poses to the footballing independence of the four Home Nations. After the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish associations objected to the idea of uniting with England, they agreed in 2009 that a Great Britain team containing only English players would enter the competition. This compromise would allow for the hosts to take part and would protect the identity of all four countries, much to the relief of fans groups from each nation.
Since then, the FA have ridden roughshod over this decision. They are still making noises about selecting non-English players. The inclusion of Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish players will be a political sop to the BOA and will likely be made for non-footballing reasons.
The fact that Olympic football is an Under-23 tournament already makes it discriminatory and prevents countries putting forward their best "athletes". To think that GB would further undermine this sporting integrity by picking players for political rather than sporting reason beggars belief.
Stuart Pearce is currently whittling down the longest shortlist in history. The players who did not reply to the initial contact from the selectors are being assumed to be warm to the Team GB idea. I’m not suggesting that players are not particularly good at writing letters, but I wonder what would have happened if they had been made to reply positively to be considered for inclusion. I suspect that Pearce's postman would have been equally untroubled.
One final hope for those against a team made up of players of all four nations lies in the official FIFA statutes. Article 7 of the Regulations Governing International Matches states that players selected for a team by another FA require the explicit sanction of that player’s own football association.
In the event that Pearce does try to pick non-English players, let’s see if the other associations oppose an amalgamated team or if they are all talk and no trousers by being complicit in its creation. Martin Riddell