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Olympic announcement brings old row to life

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Gordon Farquhar | 17:42 UK time, Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The indignant response from the Scottish and Welsh football associations to the announcement of Great Britain football teams for the 2012 Olympic Games cannot have come as any surprise to the British Olympic Association.

The other home nations outside England have long made clear their implacable opposition to the idea of a joint team, and they are clearly finding the language used by the BOA in making the announcement provocative.

They insist there is no new agreement, no falling in line. This row has been festering for years.

It is founded on the basic belief that if the home footballing nations rally behind the Union flag for the Olympics, then world governing body Fifa may well in time, perhaps not in the next few years but eventually, decide to make the joint team a permanent fixture.

That is too great a risk, argue Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, irrespective of the repeated assurances from Fifa that participation in a joint Olympic team will have no bearing on their national autonomies.

They did however concede to England, some considerable time ago, the right to form a GB team, as long as they didn't have to take any part in it. In that respect nothing has changed.

What has stirred things up is the BOA's claims of a "historic agreement" having been reached, and of the announcement of a non-discriminatory selection policy that leaves the English FA free to pick, in line with that objective selection criteria, any player from these isles.

That is all good theory. Of course, discrimination doesn't fit with Olympic values, so the policy, where written, will have to reflect that.

The practise however is likely to be very different. Will the FA risk a row with their neighbours in picking Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish players in their 18-man and 18-woman squads? If so, will those players agree to play?

They don't have to, and they will scarcely be unaware of the stance of their own FAs over the undesirability of a unified team.

Many people believe it would be absurd not to have a GB football team at a home Games, and the way has been cleared for that to happen.

Just don't expect too many Celtic accents in the post-match interviews.

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