In the days after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s vile regime, I was genuinely revolted by a gruesome picture published by the BBC, a so-called ‘respectable’ news organisation.

That photo of Gareth Bale modelling a “Team GB London 2012” football shirt made me sick to my stomach.

Any Welsh, Northern Irish, or Scottish footballer who signs up for Team GB is putting his own interest ahead of his nation’s interests. They need to understand that whatever benefits may accrue from their participation in this unnecessary Olympic distraction are greatly outweighed by the risk, however small, of losing their national team.

The home nations’ situation in the world is unique. One government, four nations, four football teams. Most people in Europe don’t really understand it, never mind the rest of the world.

What the rest of the world does see, however, are three extra votes for the European block within FIFA. Three votes which the rest of the world would love to eliminate, because it would further erode European power inside global football’s governing body.

British participation in modern Olympic football opens the door for emerging nations to argue for a Team GB within FIFA. After all, if Wales can get a vote at the FIFA table, why not Patagonia? They have the same language and I’ll bet they like doing things to fluffy animals, too.

I can’t even see why Britain needs an Olympic football team. I don’t buy the argument that we need one because London is hosting the Olympics. Did China worry about winning the 100-metre gold in Beijing in 2008? Did Greece have a top marathon runner in Athens in 2004? As far as I can see, Team GB is a reward for David Beckham(™)’s efforts in securing the tournament in the first place, and another step towards his inevitable knighthood.

And what benefits are there for British players participating? In footballing terms, it’s a diddy tournament. It’s mostly for under-23s and played during the European pre-season, even during Champions League qualifiers for some teams. And like most Olympic sports, few people really care who wins or loses. (Ask yourself: who scored the winning goal in Greece in 2004? Answer at the end of this article.)

Sadly, it looks like Team GB can’t be stopped, but we can remove any vestige of legitimacy it claims to have by ensuring it is just Team England in disguise.

Vince Alm, Football Supporters Federation Cymru chairman, said to the BBC: “The players need to be made aware of it if they’ve got aspirations of Team GB. They need to be told what the consequences are if there is a Team GB.” He also said his fellow Welshman Bale was “ill-advised” to be photographed in the Olympic shirt.

To make sure no misguided Scottish footballers fall prey to similarly sick advice, Craig Levein should state the consequences of Olympian action.

He should say that anyone playing for Team GB could, quite literally, cost him his job down the road – so he won’t pick them for Scotland while he’s manager. The SFA should back him in this stance, and also state that if you play for Team GB, then you don’t care about the national team. And if you don’t care about the national team, then you won’t play for the national team.

Ever.

––––––

Answer: I had to look it up, but Carlos Tevez scored the winning goal in Greece. Hardly a shining example of the Olympic credo, eh?

Billy

NOGB T-Shirt available from the Tartan Specials website.

Comments

  1. Jeez, chillax dude.

    I’m Scottish. I’ll support Team GB in 2012. I wish Scotland, Wales and NI were taking part in the British football team.

    What, are you saying I’m not Scottish enough for you?

  2. It has nothing to do with how Scottish anybody is, or any political viewpoints. It is all to do with securing the future of the Scottish National team (and the NI/Welsh teams).

    If people consider themselves Scottish and British and want to support GB athletes at the Olympics, that’s up to them – that is not the issue at hand. The issue is that by opening this up (for very little gain) we are putting the very existence of our national team at risk.

    Personally, I care less about the votes and the vice-presidency that the home nations get, as they really are not fair anyway.

    “If you start to put together a combined team for the Olympic Games, the question will automatically come up that there are four different associations so how can they play in one team. If this is the case then why the hell do they have four associations and four votes and their own vice-presidency?”
    Sepp Blatter, FIFA President

    “It is the quickest way for Scotland to disappear off the international stage… it’s difficult to see what guarantees can be given.”
    David Taylor, UEFA General Secretary

    “F*** them!”
    Lord Sebastian Coe, Chairman of 2012 Olympics Organising Committee
    (Referring to opposition from the Welsh and Scottish FAs to a UK team)

    “It is more important to be in the World Cup as independent associations than in the Olympics as one. For many years there were threats to the independence and those could surface again.”
    David Will, former FIFA Vice-President

    “It is not the view of the current FIFA members that matters – it is the views of members in the future that will count.”
    Gordon Smith, Former SFA Chief Executive

    “Assurances from FIFA, they don’t matter
    It’s all about the votes and not Sepp Blatter
    The wind changes with his daily patter”
    The Tartan Specials

  3. There’s not the slightest chance that Scotland’s national football team is at risk.

    Yes, there’s an argument that Scotland (and the other home nations) should not have a special vote at FIFA – but then ultimately and eventually why should we?

    The chance for young Scottish players to take part in a major international tournament would be a wonderful thing… And they’re not going to get the chance to do that playing for Scotland any time soon.

    I do enjoy this blog… But the whole argument of this particular post is that anyone who wants to play for a Team GB should be forbidden for playing for Scotland… And that reeks of petty, vindictive, nationalism.

    We should worry less about wrapping ourselves in the flag, and more about how just how shite we are at football.

    That opinion doesn’t make me any less Scottish than you.

  4. Very refreshing to see a common sense article being written about this – nice one Billy. I totally agree that we should not accept any risk that could compromise our independent footballing status. Actually it’s very unfortunate that this watered version of football (U23) is in the Olympics at all… i wouldn’t have football, tennis or golf. Olympics are supposed to be about the pinnacle of sporting achievement.

  5. @contrarian:

    I’m not arguing that we should have a ‘special vote’ – I think you’re referring to the home nations’ four votes on the IFAB? That’s an anachronism that will surely go soon.

    But that’s not what’s at risk here – it’s the very existence of Scotland within FIFA. Britain is unique in that it has four teams for one country, and don’t think that doesn’t get discussed in the corridors of FIFA’s HQ in Zurich.

    You will have to provide evidence to convince me that there is “no risk” of us losing our status (especially having read Wee Jimmy’s quotes). There is a risk, and though it may be small, it’s not one worth taking for the sake of the Olympics – which is a mickey mouse tournament in footballing terms. If we want our youngsters to experience a decent tournament, they should qualify for the U21 European Championship once in a while. [Why we don’t is a whole different story.]

    My suggestion to ban players who sign up for Team GB might reek of nationalism, but it’s based on cold, rational calculation. It’s an existential fight, so nothing is out of bounds. The players have been given subtle hints, but if they don’t work, then we have to resort to threats. Vindictive, yes; petty, no.

  6. @Billy

    The only thing at risk is Scotland’s (and the other UK, perhaps) votes on IFAB.

    It’s frankly delusional to think anyone gives two flicks about Scotland having a separate team from England, outside of the IFAB issue. We always have had, from the earliest days of the game.

    What gets my goat is the McGolgan’s (and others) attitude that “who cares” what benefits olympic football might bring to out young players.

    This week we have an SFA advisor complaining that too many of Scotland’s footballers smoke and drink… And we have yet another promising young player caught up in sectarian bullcrap.

    That’s what we should worry about.

    Instead it’s all haggis, tatties and molly weir getting all shortbread tinny about the biggest sporting event Britain’s ever seen.

    (OK, so I kid slightly for comic effect, but seriously Scotland’s national team is not at any risk whatsoever.)