Great Britain will enter a team into the 2012 Olympic football tournament but it will only include English players after a compromise between the Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and English football associations. The plan is expected to be ratified by world governing body Fifa at its annual congress next week in the Bahamas, although it would also have to be rubber-stamped by the British Olympic Association (BOA), which has always sought a team open to all British players.
A British football team has not competed at the Olympics since 1960 but the government is determined to have one at the London games even if it is not representative of all the nations that make up the United Kingdom. Despite assurances from Fifa's president Sepp Blatter that their independent status would not be eroded by contributing to a British Olympic team for 2012, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have remained vehemently opposed to taking part.
Fifa set a deadline of May 31 for the four nations to come to an agreement and the Scottish FA is confident that the proposal to have an England team playing under a British banner will be approved. "Fifa had asked the four associations to find a common solution to the issue of a British team," Scottish FA spokesman Rob Shorthouse said on Friday. "One thing is absolutely clear, we are completely opposed to the four home associations coming together to play under a unified banner in 2012 or in any other competition. This is a view shared by our colleagues in Wales and Northern Ireland.
"However, we acknowledge the fact that the English FA wish to have an involvement in the 2012 Olympic football tournament as it is being held in their country. "A proposal has therefore gone forward to Fifa which states that England will field a team in the 2012 Olympics made up exclusively of English players. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will not play any part." Although the four British football associations are recognised as separate entities by Fifa, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognises Britain only as an entity to compete in the Olympics.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are fiercely protective of their individual status within Fifa and feel that by allowing their players to compete would set a precedent for future tournaments and ultimately lead to a British football team. The BOA is committed to entering a British football team at the 2012 Games but said any no final decision would be made until after the Fifa congress. * Reuters