Date: 7th April 2016
It has long been held as true that of the four corners of this island, at least three assert their sporting independence – Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Whilst politically the opportunities for at least one part of that set of islands to actually become independent has recently come and gone for the time being, there is an equally forceful feeling from the other two that they ought to sportingly play and celebrate apart.
Over the years, supporters have seen notions suggested, plans aborted and only once, a Great Britain side entered into international competition. With that abortive notion now sated, or so it was thought, imagine the surprise when the English Football Association have begun the campaign to have team GB for women entered at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo!
Their view, that the 2016 Rio Olympics, without a team GB on the footballing park, was a massive blow, is not one shared by any fan in Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland. I even doubt if there is a swell of English supporters quaffing their pork pies, thinking I know how we’ll win another gold medal…
It is quite simply an administrator’s wet dream that does not translate into anything but a mishmash of a nightmare for fans. To suggest a GB team disregards the fans of all nations for it is not what they want – simples. The fact that it makes sense to someone with too many coloured pencils for their Christmas does not matter a jot on the terraces at Cardiff, Arsenal, Glentoran or Albion Rovers.
This has nothing to do with jingoism or to do with petty nationalism but a lot to do with tradition and heartfelt belonging. In the same way that our club allegiances have to do with stories at the knees of our parents or proximities to grounds or the bizarre nature of serendipity that ends up with us supporting a team or not, our reasons for wanting a national tram to support are personal. Ignore them at your peril.
Scottish supporters have trumpeted this view for years and they have thankfully been listened to. We are now facing the possibility that the latest FA thought shall become practice because the FA have had it. I am afraid that as England’s third place at the World Cup earned them an Olympic slot which they have had to turn down must be disappointing but the opposition from the Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh associations to enter a GB side for Rio, despite men’s and women’s teams playing at London 2012 is based upon a groundswell of support from the grassroots fans.
FA director Kelly Simmons was clear as to why this is such an important development for the women’s game, “It’s a pinnacle event in women’s football, it’s up there with the women’s World Cup – different from the men’s World Cup. To have to hand our spot to Sweden was heart breaking, it hurts.”
Like many others I think the lack of a team GB not only safeguards against the possibility that FIFA demand it is ALWAYS a team GB that trots out onto the park for all international competitions but also because fans of all 4 nations do not want it. The idea of pulling together the best of all 4 nations is just nonsense. As we know, with the largest population, largest TV deals and biggest budget for their league which country would inevitably dominate the players called up… but even if it did lead to a super team to take on the world it would still NOT be what the supporters are after. For once the associations and the fans have one voice. The next phase of the women’s game, like the next phase of the men’s game shall have to be in the four corners, in the grassroots and not with a big Union Jack artificially draped all over it. What is interesting is that policy makers + fans = an unstoppable force. Just imagine if we could harness that in other areas of the game? ac
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