Mar 24, 2011

GB Olympic team 'can be united'

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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.

The English Football Association is set to manage the team but the Irish, Scottish and Welsh are unwilling for their players to participate. The Celtic countries fear losing their status as individual nations with Fifa.

But Boyce said: "If there was a will, I believe there is a way. It's up to the British associations to ask for help."

He told BBC 5 live: "If those four British associations 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 too happy to take that up on their behalf.

"But I think they would have to say to me that this is what they would like me to do."

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."

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.

However, former Scottish Football Association chief executive Gordon Smith suggested his former employers would not change its view over releasing players.

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
Former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith

"I think their stance is quite strong," Smith told Team GB United, a BBC Radio 5 live special, to be broadcast at 2000 GMT on Thursday.

"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.

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.

"It would be going against that agreement if it invited players from other nations to take part."

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."



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