Should the British Olympic team be a truly “British Team” when it comes to football?
Currently there will be a team representing Britain as the host nation at the 2012 Olympics in London. However as things stand it will be a team made up only of English players because the other "Home nations" have refused to take part fearing for their status under FIFA. Should all the nations at least participate in making up a British Team
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Olympics are a special occassion
The Olympics in 2012 are a special occasion given that the last time the UK hosted any Olympic games summer or winter was in 1948 in the shadow of World War II [[International Olympic Committee http://www.olympic.org/uk/games/index_uk.asp%5D%5D. Further more it will be 100 years since the UK as a whole won its last Olympic Gold Medal in football . Given that the opportunity to automatically have a host team does not come around that often. They are something that should bring all nations in the UK together not maintain the divisions.
Not under FIFA's rules and regulations they aren't. They maybe special in that only players under a certain age can compete and there is a limited number of players over that age but in effect it is a competition like any other however prestigious it may be. Also football has the World Cup (the equivalent of the Olympics) and the European championships which but can be seen as a truer test as they are is more representative and has senior players as well.[[BBC Sport "Football chiefs against GB team " http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympic_games/7861587.stm Accessed 10.06.2009]]
There are methods that would still preserve the different nations as football playing entities
There are ways in which a British team could exist for the Olympics yet still preserve the home nations teams as separate identities. One way of doing it would be to hold an under 23's tournament every four years to The winning home nation would be recognised as the "British" team for the purposes of qualifying for the Olympics. A similar qualifying tournament was used to determine who would represent Britain in curling
Also the UK could possibly compete under the banner of a special touring or in this case host team similar to the British and Irish Lions in rugby union.
A knockout tournament might work for a one off occasion as being the host nation but whats to say it would work in the future?. Secondly unless FIFA changes it's rules on qualification for the Olympic Football Tournament that is something that would be impossible to maintain in future events. This is because only the semi finalists of the European Under 21 finals advance for the mens tournament and for women currently only the winner and top three finishers of the Womens World Cup . [[http://en.beijing2008.cn/news/sports/headlines/football/n214329179.shtml]]Given that the home nations play as separate entities in these events there would be no way of forming a combined team that would dissolve into nations. Also FIFA unlike the International Rugby Board or IRB does not recognise touring teams like the Lions, the Pacific Islanders or the Barbarians.
And even if it did firstly games for some of these touring teams with exceptions are uncapped ones so there would be less incentive to play. And given the qualification rules for future tournaments secondly such a team would go down a slippery slope to becoming a full team
The UK fielded football teams for the Olympics in the past so why can't it do so for the future
Until 1972 Britain fielded an Olympic football team, a team that won two golds one in 1912. After 1974 no more Olympic teams were entered because the Football Association eliminated the distinction between amateur footballers and professionals. It is only since then that the national divisions have played a part in stregthening resolve against Britain entering a football team.
Football is a professional sport in the UK as well as other countries. Even in non league divisions such as the Blue Square Premier Division or Northern footballers still get a salary of sorts given they play part time.[[ Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_Conference_National Accessed 10.06.208]]
Team is already British given it has the consent of the three other nations
Given that the Scottish, Welsh and Irish football associations have not opposed England from playing as a team in the 2012 Olympic competition. What the opposition is about is there should not be a full british team selected of different players from across the UK which is something that would impair the different national football association. [[http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympic_games/7935233.stm]]
This is fine in theory, however without players from the three other countries, the media will probably keep referring to it as the England team. This will alienate the Scots, Irish and Welsh, resulting in only the English supporting the team, which ultimatley defeats the principle.
Slippery slope as a result of a combined team
The basic argument would against a combined olympic team is that it would jeopardize rights and privileges that the home nations got at the congress of 1956. Something stated by Sebb Blatter:
"If you start to put together a combined team for the Olympic Games, the question will automatically come up that there are four different associations so how can they play in one team.
"If this is the case then why the hell do they have four associations and four votes and their own vice-presidency? "
Blatter is making reference to currently partly as a result of being some of the oldest associations in existence the British teams currently all enjoy votes in FIFA's legislature congress without any trouble from other countries [[BBC Online News http://www.faw.org.uk/news/965 Accessed 10.06.09 Football Association of Wales]]. Secondly they also have a vice presidency currently Geoff Thompson something not enjoyed by other nations or states in any other country given that FIFA operates on a continental basis.[[FIFA.com "Geoff Thompson named as new Vice President for the Four British Associations" Accessed http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/media/newsid=529124.html%5D%5D
The president of FIFA has repeatedly said that a British Olympic Team would not affect the Home Nations football team status and this has been reinforced by FIFA's secretary general saying the same thing. [[FIFA "The Possibility of a British Olympic Football Team http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/media/news/newsid=945343.html Accessed 10.06.2008]], Blatter has even written to Gordon Brown saying that such a team would not endanger the home nations standing so this point is invalid. A one off event at the very least would not be a problem.
Secondly if the Home Nation volleyball teams can form both men's and womens teams for the olympics than why can't the home nations football teams.
Thirdly the Lions rugby team seem to work well with very similar conditions. Just a one-off event and no one has ever complained.
Clubs would lose players at a crucial point in the season
The Olympic Games normally take place in August. This is a time when the football season is beginning for most European divisions meaning that teams lose players at a key period in the season something that can cause a lot of inconvenience. [[BBC Sport "Football chiefs against GB team" Accessed 10.06.2009]]Other tournaments like the World Cup and European Championships normally are scheduled in either June or July allowing players to have a regulation rest period and giving a chance for club tournaments and international football competition to co-exist.
August is not a crucial time in the season, most clubs are playing pre-season games in the Far East or the USA. If they don't mind flying halfway across the world to play in friendlys, then clubs can't be too fussed to lose players for matches in London at a level not that far above that of a friendly. Similarly, the squads are large enough to rotate the players around, they won't end up playing much more football than they would do with their club.
What do you think?