Page last updated at 01:12 GMT, Monday, 25 August 2008 02:12 UK

Salmond rejects UK football team

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Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has rejected the idea of a British Olympic football team.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has rejected the idea of a British Olympic football team, describing the proposal as a "massive own goal".

The Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland football bodies have opposed any such move in case it affects their status within governing body Fifa.

But Gordon Brown has said he wants to have both men's and women's teams playing at the London Games in 2012.

Mr Salmond said Mr Brown must be "seriously out of touch with Scotland".

"The whole concept's ridiculous and only could be put forward by somebody who's seriously out of touch with Scotland," he said.

There has been no British Olympic team since 1960, partly because of fears it could jeopardise individual sides.

The prime minister, who has suggested Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson could manage the side, has been speaking with world football's governing body, Fifa, to reach an agreement on establishing British football teams.

He said he would be surprised if there was not a team from the country which invented football competing on home turf in 2012.

First Minister Alex Salmond
Who on earth would really want to jeopardise or sacrifice the future of Scotland as an international football country
Alex Salmond
First Minister of Scotland

"I am determined to work with the football associations and the International Olympic Committee to ensure that, when we come to 2012, we have a men's football team and we have a women's football team playing," he said.

Football fans' groups from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have spoken out against Mr Brown's proposal - opposition which Mr Salmond said would "send him homewards to think again".

The first minister told BBC Scotland: "Who on earth would really want to jeopardise or sacrifice the future of Scotland as an international football country so we could have a couple of players in an under-23 team in four years' time?"

Play-off plan

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has suggested that it would be better for Britain to field a team entirely made up of English players because "this will then not provoke a long and endless discussion of the four British associations".

Acting Scottish Labour leader Cathy Jamieson has set out an alternative to the prime minister's plan.

She has suggested a home nations play-off, with the winner going forward to play as the British team.

Ms Jamieson, a contender for her party's vacant leadership post, said it would be wrong to lose Scotland's place in international football for the sake of entering a British football team in the next Olympics.

She told BBC Scotland there was plenty of time to discuss different approaches, adding: "I've put an option on the table, I'm sure the prime minister wants to ensure Scotland's future as an international footballing nation - let's have the debate."


SEE ALSO
Call for Scottish Olympics team
24 Aug 08 |  Scotland
Brown pays tribute to GB success
24 Aug 08 |  Olympics
'Incredible feeling' for Chris Hoy
20 Aug 08 |  Scotland

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