The BOA may have been left with a few red faces after announcing the 'historic agreement' that never was between themselves and the four home nation Football Associations. While England are all for entering players into a Great Britain football team for the London 2012 Olympics, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are a little apprehensive to say the least.
The opposing three Associations are openly paranoid about the prospect of losing their autonomy and as Stewart Regan, chief executive of the SFA pointed out, a letter from FIFA assuring them of that, is not legally binding. To avoid the Associations from digging their heals in it would seem an obvious solution to formulate a legally binding contract to ease the concerns that have been raised.
However, the BOA can legally select players from each nation and a team GB football team will go ahead regardless of whether they are all in agreement about it. Therefore I would imagine Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would not allow England to be the sole representatives of GB.
There is a sense of pride at stake and I don’t think the three concerned associations, particularly Scotland, would enjoy crediting the English or the other teams for strengthening their side if they were to achieve something as part of a coalition. And it is easy to understand why.
The fierce rivalries that exist between them, especially England and Scotland, are similar to those present in club football. I mean could you imagine Arsenal and Spurs, City and United, or Birmingham and Villa working together? No. And we wouldn’t want or expect it. We enjoy the rivalry and it is what makes football so exciting.
None of the aforementioned countries have reached great heights in recent years despite the calibre of players they each have. A joint team could provide the key to exactly what each country have been missing and bring together the talent from the home nations. I know I would rather see a British side with Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Darren Fletcher in it!
It has been said that the World Cup, Euros and Champions League are the pinnacle of football and that the Olympics and football do not mix. But let’s not forget that the other Olympic sports also have European and World championships and yet competitors still strive to win an Olympic medal and give the event the respect that it deserves. Football is not too important to accommodate and value the Olympics.
Critics claim that football fixtures are already too jam-packed and with the Olympics there will be a competition each summer – leaving no time for the players to rest. For me, this raises many of the same questions as those asked when deciding if England should inter into the revised Home Nations Championships.
Could this be another opportunity for Britain’s young players to get exposure to international tournament football. The Olympic football tournament is an ‘Under 23’ event and those most likely to be selected would not have played a full season and can cope with the extra fixtures. However if young team GB were to fail at the Olympics it could cause yet more embarrassment for football in the British Isles.
The Football Associations should not allow a competition that occurs every four years to cause a strain on their relationship, nor for England to become isolated and accused of arrogance. Instead, by joining forces it could create a sense of unity and give them more presence on the world stage. With the relevant security measures in place, the FA’s could find that their vested interests in team GB could in fact improve the rapport between them.