POSTED: March 28th 2011

Independent Welsh consider new twist to Olympic football argument

Gareth Bale: one of the Welsh players facing Olympic exclusion /
Gareth Bale: one of the Welsh players facing Olympic exclusion /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: Home rule sentiments in the far corners of the UK threaten to take the row over Great Britain’s Olympic football team in directions which Jacques Rogge could never have envisaged when the IOC president opened the envelope which revealed London as 2012 hosts.

Envelope? More of a Pandora’s Box.

The British originally withdrew from the Olympic football tournament after the abolition, for reasons of both practicality and modernity, of the distinction between professionalism and amateurism.

Thus Britain’s last appearance in the finals was in Rome in 1960, some 32 years (let it be noted) before the last Games success of the rule-bending, nose-thumbing ‘state amateurs’ of eastern Europe (Poland in Barcelona).

England being the cradle of the modern game, however, it was right and proper that the British Olympic Association should want to take up its hosting right to participation in London. So far, so good.

The rest is tediously well-known. England’s Football Association said Yes while Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales said No. Despite the repeated reassurance of FIFA president Sepp Blatter (I wonder what Mohamed bin Hammam thinks?) they fear joining the party would undermine their historical international independence. That is an argument for this column on another day.

By the time this argument bubbled to the surface, however, London’s 2012 organisers had already nominated Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and Scotland’s Hampden Park among its football venues.

Scotland and Wales will thus take Olympic largesse with with one hand without giving back with the other.

Every national association has the right of veto over which matches are played on their territority so both the FAW and the SFA could refuse LOCOG permission to play in their back yards. They have not.

Stadium excuses

Senior figures in the Football Association of Wales have told me privately that they appreciate this appears hypocritical. Their excuses are, firstly, that the stadia had been signed up before the associations took a stand on the identity issue and, secondly, that the Millennium Stadium is privately owned and is merely attracting business as it might a pop concert.

Hampden Park can rely on only the first excuse, that of timing. The second is a non-starter because it is owned by the Scottish Football Association.

All this heady stuff about the Welsh and Scots and Northern Irish rebelling against the BOA may be, however, only the start. Figures high up within Welsh sport – again, on condition of anonymity – are turning the argument around.

Wales is independent in football, they say, so Wales should also be independent in Olympic terms, matching its status not only within international football but within the Commonwealth Games. And Scotland. And Northern Ireland.

As if the BOA did not have enough on its plate.

Keywords · London 2012 · Olympic Games · IOC · Wales · Scotland · Football Association of Wales · Scottish Football Association · FAW · SFA · BOA

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