Another football post which touches upon politics. The head of the British Olympic Association, Lord Moynihan, is determined to raise the spectre of legal action, in an attempt to pressurise the Irish, Scottish and Welsh FA’s into accepting a genuine UK team for the London 2012 games.
During December O’Neill highlighted his shenanigans. At that point he envisaged players from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, suing the BOA for non-selection. He’s refined his legal analysis over the past month. The players should now sue their home associations in order to establish eligibility for a UK side.
Back in 2008 FIFA declared itself happy to endorse a single team for the Olympics, without prejudice to the four existing home nations which currently compete in international football tournaments.
However, the four associations made an agreement between themselves that only English players will participate. The authorities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are still anxious that their independent status could be compromised.
That is the football establishment happy. Moynihan and the BOA, though, remain dissatisfied with a solution that will see Britain represented by an England U23 XI, supplemented by some over-age players.
I can see both arguments. As a British citizen, I instinctively like the idea of a properly representative team, picked on merit, for whichever sport. Fans outside England will not, in general, feel a strong affinity toward an XI selected solely from England. As a football fan, though, I support the associations’ efforts to protect, at all costs, the separate traditions of their four international teams.
The Olympics are very much a side-show for football and elements within FIFA have campaigned for many years to force the four Home Nations to compete as one. The FA, SFA, IFA and FAW can’t afford to take any risks with their status.
However you weigh the argument, Moynihan’s spurious legal interventions are entirely unhelpful. Representative football is by its very nature discriminating. Players don’t have a right to play for an international team - selection is an hour handed out entirely at the discretion of a governing association.
O’Neill fairly comprehensively exploded the argument that players could sue Team GB for non-selection. For any proceedings to arise the BOA would have to select players expressly against the wishes of the three abstaining football associations. Even in that eventuality, it’s difficult to envisage an effective remedy against an association that decided to stop picking any player who accepted the Olympic call.
The most imaginative solution remains David Cameron's idea that Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales should compete against each other for the honour of representing Britain at London 2012.