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Page last updated at 07:23 GMT, Thursday, 24 March 2011

GB football team 'could be united at Olympics'

Gareth Bale in action for Wales
Could players like Wales international Gareth Bale play for Team GB?

Incoming Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce believes it is still possible for a united Great Britain team to play at the London Olympics in 2012.

The English Football Association is set to manage the team but the Irish, Scottish and Welsh are unwilling for their players to participate.

The Celtic countries fear losing their status as individual nations with Fifa.

But Boyce said: "If there was a will, I believe there is a way. It's up to the British associations to ask for help."

He told BBC 5 live: "If those four British associations wanted me to pursue my suggestion that it was written in stone by the Fifa executive committee that participating in the Olympics as a one-off would not affect their independence, I would be only too happy to take that up on their behalf.

"But I think they would have to say to me that this is what they would like me to do."

PAUL FLETCHER'S BLOG

World governing body Fifa president Sepp Blatter has previously said that the international status of the Celtic nations would not be affected by their players turning out for a Great Britain Olympic team.

"It's very clear, if they play, there is no sanction," said Blatter at the International Football Association Board annual meeting in Newport in March.

But Boyce, a former president of the Irish Football Association (IFA), hinted that Blatter's promise had not been enough to allay their fears.

"I feel that the Fifa executive committee should have made a ruling and should have inserted in the statutes of Fifa that this would not in any way jeopardise the future of the four associations," added Boyce.

"It is all very well somebody saying something but it needs to be made clear in writing. I think Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were very fearful something might happen."

We had meetings with the four home nations when I was there and said that it would be an English team that will be in the Olympics - and I do not see any way back

Former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith

The British Olympic Association, which has entrusted the English FA with the task of managing the GB team, is keen for any side to be representative of the United Kingdom.

However, former Scottish Football Association chief executive Gordon Smith suggested his former employers would not change its view over releasing players.

"I think their stance is quite strong," Smith told Team GB United, a BBC Radio 5 live special broadcast.

"We had meetings with the four home nations when I was there and said that it would be an English team that will be in the Olympics - and that it would be made very clear that Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are not part of it. I do not see any way back."

But Smith conceded that he thought the Celtic nations would be powerless to prevent their players from playing if they were invited.

Wales international Gareth Bale is one of several players to express an interest in representing Team GB.

His manager at Tottenham, Harry Redknapp, said he "would not stand in the way of any Tottenham players who were picked".

"It's a fantastic honour to represent your country in an Olympic Games," Redknapp told Team GB United.

"I don't think any player would turn down the opportunity to play, it's so special and you've got to grab it with both hands.

"I would like to see us pick the best team to represent our country so that we can have a real go at winning the gold medal."

Smith added that he did know if any action would be taken if players from Celtic nations took up an invitation, while adding that any invitation would go against the original agreement.

"The actual agreement was that the [English] FA should be strong with the BOA and say it is just going to be only English players who are going to be invited," he said.

Boyce argued that it would be against the better interest of the Celtic nations if they tried to prevent their players from taking part in the Olympics.

"Legally I feel if a player was picked - and I understand a couple of well-known players have made it clear they would like to be considered - I don't think they would be stopped from playing.

"Quite honestly, associations like Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland need all the good quality young players they can get. I think that [sanctions against players] would be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face."



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see also
Boyce prepares for new Fifa role
13 Dec 10 |  Irish
Pearce lined up to coach Team GB
12 Jan 11 |  Olympics
Team GB stance 'protects Wales'
18 Mar 11 |  Welsh
FAW to dash Bale's Olympic hopes
13 Jan 11 |  Welsh
Blatter's 2012 GB team assurance
05 Mar 11 |  Welsh
Smith stepping down from SFA role
19 Apr 10 |  Scotland


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