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

Comments (9)
Comment by markrpoole 2012-04-26 11:59:36

For me, anything that threatens the future of the Scotland football team is unthinkable.

But how hard can it be for the SFA, the FAW and the IFA to gain a legally-binding guarantee from FIFA that participation in the Olympics won't affect their independence? Jerome Valcke has made comments that indicate that this shouldn't be too difficult.

Or are the separate FAs more worried about losing the political advantage they currently hold on FIFA's International Football Association Board?

Comment by alter ego 2012-04-26 12:45:47

FIFA have already guaranteed the futures of the home nations. The associations are only interested in their elevated places within FIFA, which is an anachronism that should be done away with anyway. The associations would be better off listening to their players. Aaron Ramsey, Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale have said they want to play, as have players from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Far from being a "discriminatory" competition, the Olympics is a good opportunity for young players to pick up tournament experience, which would be of great benefit to the Home Nations players should they ever qualify for the Euros or World Cup.

Comment by tfinnegan82 2012-04-26 12:49:20

"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."

Except in regards to the Olympics, they are not being selected by another FA, they are being selected by an Olympic Association.

This argument has been had time and time again and with three months until the game starts, is utterly pointless. Home nation players eligible regardless of the views of their FA. It's therefore up to them if they want to play, and only a fearful insular approach would bemoan someone like Ryan Giggs, Aaron Ramsey or even Chris Brunt having their only taste of genuine international tournament football.

Comment by ooh aah 2012-04-26 14:06:37

Surely they are far more likely to be strong armed into avoiding team GB by their club managers given the closeness of the competition to the start of the PL season (I haven't checked, but it's possible that they overlap)

Comment by Reed John 2012-04-26 17:57:32

What alter ego said. There's no law of physics that says a GB team means an end to the home nations, nor a law that says that the lack of a GB team strengthens their claim to their unique status.

It seems to me that this is a much more critical question for the women. If GB doesn't compete in the men's tournament, it would be unfortunate, but it's just a short U23 tournament during a time when most fans will be more focused on the European championships anyway.

But this is one of only two international women's tournaments that gets any kind of significant coverage and if the England or Britain team does well on home soil, it could be a huge boost for the women's game in Britain. It's an opportunity that the respective FA's ought not to miss.

Comment by ooh aah 2012-04-26 18:14:55

What is this FIFA guarantee though? Cos y'know I'm not overly convinced by any guarantee issued by Sepp Blatter. Is it an actual legally binding document, or a passing comment of reassurance issued by a FIFA apparatchik which could be withdrawn the moment said apparatchik requires support from elsewhere? If it's the former then that's pretty reassuring and my objections to team GB dwindle, but if it's the latter then obviously that's not in any way reassuring.

Comment by Coral 2012-04-26 18:35:41

Fantastic news if the FAs manage to stop Scotland, NI and Wales players getting into the GB squad. GB might then stand a chance of winning

Comment by brasileiro 2012-04-27 14:05:45

I always thought this was an opportunity to revise the Home International championship as an under-23 tournament. The winners would then be Team GB. If too difficult to organise, as said, the other FAs were happy for England to represent Team GB and so no need for any insistence on Welsh, Scots and Irish individuals.
However, I find the stance by the non-English home nation FAs appears to have a slightly hypocritical flaw - particularly the Welsh. How can Swansea and perhaps next season Cardiff happily compete in the English Premier League, and other Welsh teams in the lower tiers of the pyramid, without similar anxiety? Shouldn't Berwick Rangers be required to go back to playing Gateshead et al?
The English FA are no better in their willingness to contradict themselves in these questions: when Wimbledon were allowed to toddle off to Milton Keynes, the rank hypocrisy of the English FA exceeded that of the Welsh FA in not requiring Cardiff, Swansea, Wrexham, Newport County and others to come home.
Pragmatically, a Celtic League, of Rangers (perhaps not now!) Celtic, Swansea, Cardiff, Coleraine, Shamrock Rovers, Cork Town, etc, etc, might have included a new franchise that might have been stabled in Dublin and formed from the old Wimbledon - this would have had more consistency than the current arrangements.
Monaco play in the French League, and so why shouldn't Celtic apply to the English League? Perhaps if Portsmouth go bust there is a tidy opportunity for them to start off in League One; whatever, let's have some clear thinking: Craig Bellamy playing at the end of his career for Team GB is not going to destroy Welsh autonomy, yet the Welsh FA feel it would. They would quite happily allow that their teams climb the pyramid and they would love Wrexham and Cardiff and others to join Swansea in the nation of foreigners and cash that is the English Premier League.

Comment by mcr 2012-05-10 02:49:29

markrpoole - do you (or would you) believe any guarantees that come from Blatter or Valcke? they have previously said that this could threaten the existence of the home nations. so why risk it??

alterego/ooh aah - FIFA can't give any guarantees. any decision could be overturned by future FIFA committees. on that basis - why risk threatening the home nations teams?

tfinnegan82 - the EFA are selecting players that do not come under their auspices. remember that this is a FIFA competition so it has to be an FA that select the players and it just so happens that the FA are aligned to the BOA so in this instance it is the FA that are potentially selecting players that "belong" to the FAW, IFA and SFA. do you not think it selfish that players such as Giggs, Bale etc aer threatening future Welsh players from representing Wales at future tournaments?

Reed John - you are quite correct that there is no rule which means a Team GB threatens the existence of the home nations but respected British football administrators (yes they do exist) have continually said that this does pose a threat. so if that is the case then why bother to reinforce said threat?

Coral - hear hear!

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