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TeamGB or not TeamGB? That is the question

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The row over proposals to field men’s and women’s football teams representing Great Britain at the 2012 Olympic Games is rumbling on.

British Olympics Association chief Simon Clegg insists teams representing comprised of players from Scotland, England and Wales and Northern Ireland will compete when the Olympics arrive to London in 2012.

But the Scottish (SFA), Welsh (FAW) and Northern Ireland Football Associations have all opposed the idea, because, despite assurances to the contrary from Fifa, they believe any involvement with a British team could jeopardise their current status with the games governing bodies.

The UK entered a football team into the Olympic Games from 1908 until 1972, and Fifa President Sepp Blatter has said: “For us there is no problem, I don’t know why they are concerned.”

But current Irish Football Association president Raymond Kennedy insisted: "We would not want to compromise our national identity in this way."

Those sentiments were echoed by a Football Association of Wales spokesman who said:"Nothing has changed from our point of view – our secretary David Collins has been very clear, and said two years ago that he FAW will not undertake anything that would jeopardise its position as a separate nation within Fifa and Uefa, because it wants to continue playing football internationally as Wales."

While Scottish FA Chief executive Gordon Smith went as far as to say his association would prevent players from playing for a British team in the Games.

"All the players who are registered under the association or are Scottish international players would be prohibited from playing," he said.
And even former Scotland manager Craig Brown admits he harbours grave concerns about the wisdom of fielding a British team in 2012.

"It might be OK in a one-off situation, but would it be a one-off situation? I suspect this would be the thin edge of the wedge”, Brown said.
"If we (Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) were to agree and join with England would we find that the World Cup and the European Championship would suddenly want a Great Britain team as well.

"Gordon Smith is right, I think. Russia, for example, has been split into 15 different countries now – 10 of them now play under Uefa juristiction, and five compete in Asia.

"Because of that, Fifa would like to combine some countries and make the whole situation more manageable.

"Although Blatter says this would be a one-off, it would be ideal for him. Would he say ‘This has been very successful, we are now going to play as Great Britain from now’.

"We are proud of our nation and being Scottish. There is no way Scotland would like to sacrifice their national football team, and I am sure the English, Welsh and Irish feel the same.

"We could compete as Scotland and it would be great if we were all able to try to qualify to compete in the Olympics – but I don’t think there is any chance of it being agreed in a Scottish context. It is not paranoia, it is logic."

And former Fifa vice-president David Will, who retired last May, has also urged Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to oppose the BOA’s “Team GB” plan.

Will said: "We should not take the chance of joining a British team, because there’s nothing to stop an association saying ‘the four British associations have played together at an Olympics, so they can do at a World Cup as well’."

"I’m sure Sepp Blatter means what he says but why should the associations take that chance?

"The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world and not the Olympics, despite what they say – it is more important to be in the World Cup as independent associations than in the Olympics as one.”

In an FSF poll conducted on the issue last year, 53% of fans voted against the idea of football teams representing Great Britain competing in the Olympic games.

Related Website: NoTeamGB

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