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Off the ball?

Brian Taylor | 12:39 UK time, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

So that's all right, then.

The Scottish secretary has sought and obtained assurances from Fifa that a Team GB at the Olympics wouldn't jeopardise the status of the home nations in taking part, separately, in international football competitions.

Most politicians affect an interest in football. Jim Murphy is the genuine article. He plays football. He follows football. He's a fan.

Mr Murphy has even achieved the ultimate soccer accolade: he survived trial by Stuart and Tam on Off the Ball. In fact, he was rather good.

Not entirely sure he's on the ball with this one, though.

The assurance he has obtained is from Jerome Valcke, the Secretary General of Fifa. Which is fine, as far as it goes.

He is the ranking official. His word is important. However, as the Scottish Football Association has noted, does this entirely bind the members of the association?

Winner takes all

What if, in future, there were to be questions raised about why the member nations of the UK have separate international status?

What if someone hostile to that status were to attempt to use the Olympic example as precedent evidence?

One can, of course, see the politics behind this. Labour Ministers, led by the prime minister, want to bolster a spirit of Britishness.

SNP ministers want to promote a spirit of Scottishness. Hence they differ on Team GB. Maybe they could settle their differences on the football field. Winner takes all.

PS: I'm off to witness the cup semi-final draw at Holyrood this afternoon. Here's hoping it works this time - and United get the right outcome.

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