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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Why it has to be the end of the road for the #TeamGB football team

With the Team GB football team playing the quarter finals in Cardiff today, they should be commended on defying expectations and getting as far as they have. I for one, am anticipating them going further and possibly picking up a medal.

However, we should not get carried away with their success, even if there are many voices in the media who remained confused as to what they represent and why they are doing so well.

They are effectively an England and Wales Team representing the United Kingdom. They are not an English team despite lazy claims to the contrary and I think it is fair to say that they would not have got this far without their Welsh players.

In part the controversy about the national anthem is rooted in this confusion. If we are going to use God Save the Queen interchangeably as an English and a British anthem, then it is little wonder that the Welsh and the Scots are reluctant to sing along to it.

The other myth that is being peddled about is that we can repeat this experiment in future Olympics. We cannot, and Matt Withers in his Western Mail column today sets out some very good reasons why not:

Team GB qualified for this year’s tournament automatically as hosts, and with the promise from world governing body FIFA that it would not affect the home nations’ independence.

That would not be the case in four years’ time. The other three European teams in the London games – Spain, Switzerland and Belarus – qualified through last year’s Under-21 championship. The teams playing in Brazil will qualify through the 2013 U21 championship in Israel (who beat Wales to host it).

Therefore, if Team GB seriously wants to be at the next Olympics, the four football associations of the UK will have to agree to pulling out of qualifying for Israel and field a united side instead.

Not only would it severely disrupt youth development in all four nations – and what would be the motivation of Scotland and Northern Ireland, who failed to provide a single player to this year’s squad? – but the precedent it would set could wipe out the associations themselves.

Why would FIFA agree to Britain fielding a united side at one level, the under-21s, but play as England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at all levels below and above that? Are they one association, or four? Certainly the FA selecting the Team GB squad this year has already muddied the waters in some minds.

And if they could operate as one team, Uefa, European football’s governing body, could view GB as one entity. A situation is not out of the question where, with one national side, Britain would be asked to provide representatives for European club competition rather than the individual nations.

The English may not understand the sensitivities brough about by asymetric devolution, but as Matt says they will certainly be forced to come face-to-face with reality when they find themselves travelling to Aberdeen for a football league fixture because Uefa has ruled we can no longer have separate national leagues.

Good luck to the Welsh players who are holding Team GB together this evening, and of course to their English team mates, but once this party is over, it is back to the old system. Hopefully, we will not see a Team GB football team again.
I agree with most of your argument except it should never had happened in the first place.

Just to make it clear its an under 23's competition with three over-23 players and under 45 allowed per squad.
Very good and rational post by Peter Black.
Well yes but if FIFA did decide to call the UK one country, and we had to have a combined team, how many of those would be from England, how many from wales Scotland and Ireland, or would they all be from the English Premier league
With respect that isnt really the point
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