Team GB a “ridiculous plan”

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by a Newsnet reporter

Arguments over the London Olympics organisers’ insistence on a single football team to represent all of the UK broke out again yesterday. 

Stuart Pearce, the newly appointed manager of “Team GB” said yesterday that he wanted the team to comprise players from all four nations in the UK, and insisted that he had the freedom to select Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish players despite the opposition of the national Football Association of each country.

Mr Pearce said: “I’m not going into this job looking only to select English players.  It should be made up if at all possible of all the home nations.

“They should come forward and put their players up for selection.  A lot of it will depend on the players mentality.  If the players want to be part of it then that would be fantastic.  I think they will.”

The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations have expressed their entrenched opposition to a Great Britain team as it risks the independence of the national sides.  Supporters associations from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also all joined in opposing Team GB.

Some FIFA members have made it plain in the past that they see the existence of four national sides from the United Kingdom to be an anomaly which ought to be resolved.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live in response to the news, former Scotland manager Craig Brown said:  “I wish them every success but I would still be disappointed if any selected Scottish player took part.

“We fear the autonomy of Scottish football would be jeopardised if we were to play and it would be selfish of the player.”

The Scottish FA warned that any Scottish players who took part may have to face a backlash from fans.  In a statement, the Scottish FA said:  “In light of today’s [Thursday’s] announcement, the Scottish FA reiterates its opposition to taking part in Team GB.

“We have been consistently clear in our position and, in particular, the threat it poses to our independent membership of FIFA and also our representation on the International Football Association Board.  It is imperative we preserve our voice at the top table of world football and the supporters are in agreement with our stance.

“We have consulted with the men’s and women’s international squads in order that they understand our position, the reasons for that position and are aware of the feelings of the supporters.”

Commenting on Mr Pearce’s statement, SNP Westminster spokesperson on Culture, Media and Sport Pete Wishart MP pointed out the widespread opposition to Team GB saying:

“Stuart Pearce must recognise and respect the long-standing opposition to the creation of a GB side.  That opposition has not changed, and officials must accept that the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations, and fans, will not be bounced into changing that position.

“The footballing nations are united against the idea of a Team GB, and the sooner these ridiculous plans are forgotten about the better.”