Team GB United
January 1, 2000
Venues are near completion, tickets are on sale and London Olympic Games are fast approaching.
Much has been said about the football competitions and the debates are not going away. Should the Women’s Football start before the opening ceremony? Should Great Britain’s men be represented?
The BBC Sport website has picked up on the latter issue once again. Incoming FIFA vice president Jim Boyce believes it is still possible for a united Great Britain team to play at the London Olympics in 2012. We will all have our views on this one and for one I agree with Jim Boyce. Olympic sports are represented by GB. Football is an Olympic sport and as the host nation we should be putting out a team.
The English Football Association is set to manage the team but the Irish, Scottish and Welsh are unwilling for their players to participate.
The website reports this from former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith.
“We had meetings with the four home nations when I was there and said that it would be an English team that will be in the Olympics – and I do not see any way back.”
You are missing something, Mr Smith. England is not represented in the Olympic Games and neither is Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. If England were to put in a team it would have to be called Great Britain and the consequence of that is that many British citizens would be excluded. That would not be fair or right.
The Celtic nations fear losing their individual FIFA status but Boyce has suggested a statute could protect them.
“If there was a will, I believe there is way,” Boyce told BBC Radio 5 live.
“If those four British association wanted me to pursue my suggestion that it was written in stone by the FIFA executive committee that participating in the Olympics as a one off would not affect their independence, I would be only to happy to take that up on their behalf.
“But I think they would have to say I me that this is what they would like me to do.”
Yes please Mr Boyce.
World governing body FIFA president Sepp Blatter has previously said that the international status of the Celtic nations would not be affected by their players turning out for a Great Britain Olympic team.
“It’s very clear, if they play, there is no sanction,” said Blatter at the International Football Association Board annual meeting in Newport in March.
But Boyce, a former president of the Irish Football Association (IFA), hinted that Blatter’s promise had not been enough to allay their fears.
“I feel that the FIFA executive committee should have made a ruling and should have inserted in the statutes of FIFA that this would not in any way jeopardise the future of the four associations,” added Boyce.
“It is all very well somebody saying something but it needs to be made clear in writing. I think Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were very fearful something might happen.”
So put it in writing then!
The British Olympic Association, which has entrusted the English FA with the task of managing the GB team, is keen for any side to be representative of the United Kingdom.
Good; absolutely right.
However, former Scottish Football Association chief executive Gordon Smith suggested his former employers would not change its view over releasing players.
“I think their stance is quite strong,” Smith told Team GB United, a BBC Radio 5 live special on March 24th.
“We had meetings with the four home nations when I was there and said that it would be an English team that will be in the Olympics – and that it would be made very clear that Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are not part of it. I do not see any way back.”
But Smith conceded that he thought the Celtic nations would be powerless to prevent their players from playing if they were invited.
So let’s invite them then. Wales international Gareth Bale is one of several players to express an interest in representing Team GB.
And Smith added: “I don’t know if any action will be taken, I do not suppose it could be.
“The actual agreement was that the [English] FA should be strong with the BOA and say it is just going to be only English players who are going to be invited.
Boyce argued that it would be against the better interest of the Celtic nations if they tried to prevent their players from taking part in the Olympics.
“Legally I feel if a player was picked -and I understand a couple of well known players have made it clear they would like to be considered -I don’t think they would be stopped from playing.
“Quite honestly, associations like Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland need all the good quality young players they can get. I think that [sanctions against players] would be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
But there won’t be any sanctions Mr Smith.
Come on Gareth, put the GB shirt on and wear it with pride. Alongside all the other British footballers who have every right to represent their nation state on their own soil and in the greatest sporting event on Earth.