It will be unlikely that Team GB’s soccer team will compete in the 2016 Olympic Games, according to FA secretary Alex Horne.
Due to the popularity of the 2012 Olympic Games, people are now starting to look forward to the 2016 Rio Games in Brazil, a future which doesn’t look bright for British soccer. Alex Horne, the general secretary of the FA, believes that because of the risk of jeopardizing the footballing independence of the four home nations, seeing a GB football team participating will be unlikely.
“Within the men’s game, it’s not going to happen again. On the women’s side, I’m going to say it’s unlikely for the same reason. But you can understand why it’s more compelling. Olympic football for women is the pinnacle,” Horne told The Times.
The future looks slightly brighter for the women’s football team. Andy Hunt, Team GB’s chef de mission, said that he would love to see the women’s team participate at a future games, hopefully Rio 2016. However, his support for the men’s team isn’t as strong as for the women.
“For the men’s team, discussions will take place between myself and the FA in the next few months,” Hunt said. “But certainly for women’s football, I would love them to go on.”
It was due to the massive success of the London 2012 Olympic bid that Great Britain even gained the right to enter a soccer team as the host nation. The British Olympic Association (BOA) indicated that it would enter a soccer team. However, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) refused to even attend the meetings with the Home Nations and the Football Association of Wales (FAW) withdrew from the negotiations. In 2007 the Irish Football Association stated that it as well would not take part in the unification of a British team, which then left the English Football Association alone. The reason why the SFA didn’t want to participate was due to the fear that the Home Nations would have to stay as a combined football team after the Olympics and for future competitions.
Many sports people, fans and even politicians gave their opinion on their support to the creation of a combined team. Dai Greene, the world 400m hurdles champion, expressed his opinion that there should not be an Olympic soccer tournament because the Olympics is not all about soccer. He feared that the coverage of the soccer team would overshadow the interest in the other sports.
After London had won the bid to host the Games, the BOA published an opinion poll that claimed the majority of Scots actually supported the creation of a British team for the Games. Furthermore, politicians such as Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated during the 2008 Olympics that he wanted a British team for the 2012 Games and that he would do whatever it took to make that happen, although he recognized that it could affect the autonomy of the Home Nations.
Despite all the negative discussions about the jeopardy of the Home Nations, FIFA President Sepp Blatter assured each of the British Associations that their international football status would not be affected by fielding a combined team for London 2012. However, the SFA still refused to change its position, argued that the FIFA President’s own opinion would not matter once he had left office, and that they would not take the risk. Controversially, President Blatter changed his mind in March 2008, stating that he believed that Team GB should only consist of English players, as the independent status of the British associations could be harmed if there was a team with combined players.
The prospect of a UK team for the 2012 Olympics was discussed by the FIFA Executive Committee at a conference held in conjunction with the 2008 FIFA World Cup in Japan, where it was stated:
“The executive committee confirmed that the participation in the 2012 London Olympic Games of a single team representing Great Britain would not affect the existing individual status of the four British football associations. For the Olympic Games, they have to play in one entity. The ball is now in their turf.”
In the end, a compromise was reached between the four associations, which concluded that only English players would represent Team GB. However, this agreement was challenged by the BOA, who believed it to be discriminatory to only select English players, and it was then later confirmed that the FA intended to select players from outside England. This caught the attention of non-English players such as Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, who both expressed their desire to play in the GB squad, by having pictures of themselves published wearing the GB football shirt. Bale was not chosen, however, Ramsey and four other Welsh players such as Craig Bellamy, Neil Taylor, Joe Allen and Ryan Giggs were all chosen for the London 2012 Games.
It is almost six months now since the London 2012 Games and the British people have been more than satisfied with the great achievements made by the British athletes. In football, both the men and women team got into the quarter-finals, losing to South Korea and Canada, which some say was a disappointing result yet others would disagree.
So what’s going to happen for Rio 2016? Are we going to see a combined British team? Well, despite the many negative statements from Alex Horne and Andy Hunt, many have expressed their desire to see Team GB return to the football field for Rio 2016, players such as Ryan Giggs and some member of the British Olympic Association. However, by looking at the former history, with no support from the FA, with no funding likely to be given and the complications over qualification, the future sadly looks very bleak.
How it all began:
The very first team GB squad competed for the 1908 Olympic Games held in London, which also was the first games where the teams used players selected nationally, won the the first Olympic gold medal in football. The team which participated in the following Olympics also won gold, but featured only English amateur players. As today, there was a dispute between the FA and FIFA, which saw the FA withdrawing the Olympic football team in 1924, 1028 and 1932.
When the FIFA World Cup was created, it was agreed that Olympic football would include exclusively amateur players, which lead to Team GB participating again at the 1936 Games using players from all the home nations. After a long break in participation caused by World War II, Great Britain competed in every Games from 1948 until 1972, qualifying for most of them.
However, after the FA abolished the distinction between professional and amateur players in 1974, it stopped entering a team. Even in 1992, when it was decided that Olympic teams could use professionals (as long as they were under 23 years old) – plus three over age players were allowed per squad, all the years up to the day London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games no GB team entered.