In the Olympics the home nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are represented together as one body called team Great Britain meaning that athletes represent Great Britain as a whole rather than their individual nation.
Football at the Olympic Games
The footballing competition at the Olympic Games is fast becoming one of the most popular events at the Olympics with many countries such as Argentina and Brazil taking this very seriously. For the spectators being able to see some of the world’s best football players is certainly a big draw for the event.
Structure of football at the Olympics
Football at the Olympics is a competition traditionally for players under the age of 23 with four players over that age being able to be present in the squad. This enables some of the world’s best to be eligible to play in the tournament.
Football at the London 2012 Olympics
The decision on the structure of football at the 2012 Olympics has not yet been decided upon but it is thought that players will only be eligible if they are under 21 with the potential for overage players being scrapped.
Many feel that due to the fact the 2012 Olympics will be held in London and the potential of the young British players it would be a great opportunity for another gold medal to enter a British team.
Will this happen?
Currently the only Football Federation from Britain which is in agreement with the idea is the English – the Football Association.
The Football Association of Wales (FAW), the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and Northern Ireland’s Irish Football Association (IFA) are all strongly opposed to the idea.
Do all the nations have to agree for Team GB to happen?
For a team GB to be present in the 2012 Olympic Games representing the home nations there must be an agreement for this to happen between all of the home nations. One suggestion has been that there would be a team GB but this would be made up of only English players.
Agreement reached between the home nations
The home nations had to reach an agreement with each other and provide the details of this agreement to FIFA by May 2009 if there is to be any chance of a team GB at the 2012 Olympic Games. The agreement was reached that there could be a Team GB but this would only be made up of English payers. In fact the agreement from the other home nations was simply that they would not oppose England doing this.
Why are the other home nations opposed to the idea?
It is the thought of many that a successful football team comprising of British players would have the affect of uniting the UK during a time which should be seen as a celebration – the Olympic Games being held in London.
However, the feelings of the home nations other than England are that their independence in the footballing world will be lost.
The independence of the home nations
The decisions of the worldwide governing body of football, FIFA, are taken at annual congresses are at made by votes of the FIFA member associations.
At the FIFA Congress of 1946 four of the home nations of the United Kingdom were guaranteed separate status meaning that they can be represented individually in international competition and they can have their own individual domestic competitions.
Loss of this independence
The SFA, FAW and IFA feel that if they are in agreement to the unification of the nations for a Team GB in the Olympic Games that this will be the first step of FIFA deciding that this should be the case from now on for all FIFA Competitions therefore removing the independence of each FA.
This would therefore unify all the national governing bodies into one Great British national governing body responsible for football throughout the UK meaning that the SFA, FAW and IFA would cease to exist.
Would this in fact be the case?
FIFA has tried to stem the flow of this argument by making statements that the unification of the nations for one competition would not affect their independence. However, this may simply be the case under the regime of the current FIFA president who eventually will be replaced. If the next president feels that the nations should be unified this could be put to the vote of the FIFA member associations.
If the nations have never once been unified there would be little grounds for the reason for this decision, however, if it had happened once before there may be sufficient grounds. This is a chance the SFA, FAW and IFA do not want to take.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB)
Not only might the independence of the nations be under threat there may also be political issues associated with the membership of a body called the International Football Association Board (IFAB).
What is the International Football Association Board?
The IFAB is the body which presides over the laws of the professional game of football throughout the world. There are only 8 seats on the board with more of them currently being held by the four home nation football associations. The other four are divided up between the various other FIFA member associations.
The home nations also feel that any unification of the nations for a team GB, albeit for a one off tournament, may affect the argument for the need of maintaining their powerful positions on the IFAB.