Early Doors

Team GB hot air just a smokescreen

Early Doors

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The incessant whining of British football's small fry should be the least of Team GB's worries as they look to create a young super-team in time for the Olympics next year.

The reaction of the Scottish and Welsh FAs to the British Olympic Association's 'historic' agreement to field a united British team at the London 2012 Games was reminiscent to that of a small child covering its ears with its hands.

"La la la la la, I can't hear you so it's not happening" may as well have been SFA president George Peat's statement when, speaking on behalf of an entire nation, he declared "we want nothing whatsoever to do with this tournament".

Judging by the reaction on Twitter yesterday, ED was not alone in noting the misplaced, pompous self-importance of that statement: that the non-entity technocratic chief of a relatively small football nation - himself utterly incapable of harnessing its sectarian bile - should effectively sneer at the Olympics as some phoney tournament.

There is also a huge sense of hypocrisy that the Welsh FA should cry foul just as one of its members - Swansea City - gains promotion to the (English) Premier League, surely a far greater threat to its regional hegemony than a one-off, month-long jolly next year.

That is all secondary though to the simple fact that there is absolutely nothing they and their Northern Irish equivalents can do about it.

While the BOA's statement may have been a touch incendiary, poorly-expressed even, it was made safe in the knowledge that any British player of the correct age will be able to represent his or her country at the Olympics if he or she chooses to do so.

Olympic football falls outside the remit of FIFA and UEFA's management of the global game: even if there were not specific written agreements protecting the independence of the British member FAs in the event of a united British team at the 2012 Games, FIFA and UEFA would not be able to do anything about it. Nothing. Nada. Niet. Rien etc.

Short of cutting off their own noses to spite their faces - i.e. dishing out life bans to the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey if they live their Olympic dream - the member associations have no power whatsoever to prevent players from turning out for Team GB.

They also have no reason to fret, as the above impotence of FIFA and UEFA to interfere is buffered by explicit, written promises to retain separate national teams - ED is of the understanding that the BOA's statement can be backed up by responses from all the FAs that admit they are powerless to stop a Team GB and basically have no reason to do so.

And it's not like there is not precedence in other sports: most of you need not be reminded of the existence of the British and Irish Lions in rugby, a veritable 70s rock supergroup combining the Home Nations and a united Ireland that tours the world of rugby with no impact whatsoever on the independence and power of the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English RFUs and their respective national teams.

The member FA chiefs are not idiots - they know all this - and their collective rant is nothing more than hot air: keen to protect their own positions, a bit of blustery braveheart bravado will do them no harm in the eyes of the more nationalist elements of the fanbase, and may well convince some players within their nations to step away from a combined team.

But that will not deny the likes of Bale, Ramsey, Barry Bannan, Corry Evans or any willing, eligible U23 player the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in the greatest sporting show on earth. As Britons, the decision should be the players' and the players' only, unaffected by protectionism.

No, the real threat does not come from the pen-pushing small fry at the FAs but from the Premier League clubs, who will almost certainly put the kybosh on their starlets taking part.

England's U21 flop in Denmark had less to do with the malaise in the senior national game than with the absences of its three best players - Jack Wilshere, Andy Carroll and Micah Richards - through 'fatigue' or 'injury'; Spain's equivalents in Juan Mata, Bojan and David De Gea - not to mention Javi Martinez, Diego Capel, Iker Muniain and Daniel Parejo - are all present.

The petty, regionalist gripes of the Scottish, Welsh and Irish FAs are a smokescreen for the real threat as the likes of Arsene Wenger and Kenny Dalglish prioritise their own concerns over those of a nation.

And with the Games outside FIFA's remit, there will be nothing anyone can do about that.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Academies are now almost creating robotic players, who have had everything done for them from the age of nine. Ever since that age, they've been told what to do and they can't think for themselves" - Danny Mills says what everyone has been thinking about English football. He will get murdered for it by the 'what did you ever win with England' brigade, but he is right.

FOREIGN VIEW: Players and officials from two Singapore football clubs have been hit with suspensions and fines for "disgraceful acts of hooliganism" at an S.League game in May. A pre-match brawl between champions Etoile F.C. and Hougang United erupted as the teams warmed up. Four people were treated in hospital for minor injuries. Two players from Etoile were suspended from all competitions dating back to the incident. A player and an official from Hougang United received the same punishment. Both clubs were docked five points and fined £5,000, of which half is suspended until the end of 2011.

COMING UP: Speaking of underage football tournaments, the semi-finals of the Euro U21s take place tonight with LIVE coverage of Spain v Belarus (5pm) and Switzerland v Czech Republic (8pm).

Follow full coverage of day three of Wimbledon as BRITISH hopes Andy Murray, Laura Robson, Heather Watson and Anne Keothavong all return to court, weather permitting, while favourite Rafael Nadal is also in action.

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