POSTED: January 19th 2011

British Olympic chief warns that latest football team row could end in court

Gareth Bale playing for Wales in a World Cup qualifier against Germany /
Gareth Bale playing for Wales in a World Cup qualifier against Germany /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON, Jan 19: The vision of a football team being picked by High Court judges has been conjured up by Colin Moynihan, in his latest comment on the increasingly tense run-up to the Olympic Games tournament in London next year.

The first roadblock along the path to Great Britain's first appearance in the finals since Rome in 1960 was the refusal of the football associations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to countenance any involvement in a project entrusted to the administrative control of England's Football Association.

They fear it might be used as an excuse by critics of the historic four-day representation of the four so-called 'home associations' within the world game - both as separate entities in international competition and as holders of individual votes within FIFA and UEFA Congresses.

The latest wrangle concerns whether the GB manager - whoever he may yet be - can select British players from beyond England for the finals which involve under-23 players (plus a possible maximum of three over-age players per squad).

Embarrassingly for Irish, Scots and Welsh this dilemma will affect comparatively few of their players who will not be expected to be worth selection ahead of English counterparts.

However one likely 'test case' star is Tottenham's left wingback Gareth Bale who is also a senior Wales international. He has expressed a desire to play at the Olympics but the WFA has said it will bar him or any other of their players under the threat of never selecting them for the senior Wales team.

Ironically, this is a prospect which various English club managers who have misgivings over releasing players for national team duty, would welcome.

Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association, has acknowledged that Bale is likely to be picked for the Great Britain squad, barring injury or other force majeure.

Discrimination test

He said: "If Gareth Bale is eligible for selection, and if the FA determines that he is the best for the team then he'll be selected - I would expect him to be. If an association then took sanctions against a player then the player would have recourse to the courts on discrimination grounds.

"If players felt they were being excluded for any reason other than merit, they would absolutely be able to challenge that decision."

Bale, whose prospects of ever playing in the finals of the World Cup and/or European Championship with minnows Wales are remote, has said: "The Olympics would be a great opportunity for a young player like me to play in a major tournament. We all know Wales don't tend to qualify for too many of the big occasions."

Moynihan said he was "sympathetic to concerns" that a unified team at the Olympics might lead to demands for a similar side in the major events and would seek assurances about the home nations' status.

The independent status of the four - plus the right to a permanent FIFA vice-presidency - was enshrined in the world federation's statutes during negotiations which brought the British quartet back into the international fold in 1947. The security was one of the prices demanded by the then FA secretary, Sir Stanley Rous, for reintegration.

Changing FIFA statutes needs a three-quarters majority and, considering Europe (UEFA) has 53 of FIFA's 208 members, it and its allies would holds a blocking vote. Europe, which has seen its political power fade over the years, would always be guaranteed to oppose the loss of three votes.

Each independent football association has absolute jurisdiction over official matches played within its territory. Considering the recognition row, it is baffling that the Welsh and Scottish associations are content to see group matches in the 2012 Olympic finals being staged in both Cardiff and Glasgow.

Keywords · London 2012 · Olympic football · Moynihan · BOA · British Olympic Association · Bale · Wales · Rous · England · Football Association

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