Who Wants to be British?

With the Olympics to be held in London in 2012, the question of whether there will be any British representation at the tournament is coming up ever more frequently. The problem, of course, is that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all represented separately under FIFA auspices, but the IOC requires only one team from the U.K. The last time Britain entered the Olympic football tournament was back in 1972, when amateurs still ruled the day.

There’s politics behind this: each Association fears losing the privileged position they historically hold, with a guaranteed position as Vice-President of the FIFA Management Committee and their role on the Internatonal Football Association Board, where they each a hold a seat.

Fans have also spoken out against the formation of a joint team. As Play The Game reports:

In a rare show of support, the associations in Scotland and Wales and fan groups have all come out against the proposals for a GB team. A campaign against the idea that is also backed by fan groups in England and Northern Ireland has been launched.

The No Team GB campaign is backed by the Association of Tartan Army Clubs (ATAC), England’s Football Supporters Federation, Cymru FSF and the Green & White Army from Northern Ireland.

ATAC spokesman Tam Ferry says: “The Olympic football competition is a low profile competition that no-one in this country has ever shown any interest in. “Who can remember the winners? None of the fan groups want to be part of anything which might jeopardize the future of our national teams.”

Those words are a little disingenuous: after all, without British representation, it’s no wonder it hasn’t attracted much interest. Whereas, in 2012 in London — where it’s likely to be, once again, the most attended Olympic event — the tournament is likely to garner a good deal of attention, and it would certainly be remembered if we won the gold medal. After all, I still remember cheering for Britain’s gold in field hockey in 1988, and I haven’t watched a hockey game before or after (and who could forget Barry Davies’ bombastic cries in the final: “Where are the Germans? Frankly, who cares!”)

Sepp Blatter has stated in the past that a joint British team in the Olympics would not jeopardise their power in FIFA, though his words seem like something of a backhanded promise.

I would welcome a Great Britain football team at the Olympics. The associations have always resisted joining forces, for fear of losing their individuality and strong political position within Fifa. The British leaders in football are a little concerned about fielding an Olympic team under the denomination of Great Britain. They feel they could lose the privileges they have in Fifa.

One person could say you are together so why do you have four associations, four votes and one vice-president in Fifa. But personally I feel that one is not linked to the other.

One suspects, though, that the mandarins of home nations football and the nationalistic inclinations of fans will result in, at best, a cackhanded compromise ruling the day. Well, it’s not like we’d beat the Germans at football anyway.

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