Olympic news

FA worry over GB Olympic pullout

February 17, 2011
By Harry Harris, Football Correspondent

The Great Britain Olympic football team may be forced to withdraw from the 2012 London Olympics completely - if the FA board cannot come to a solution to the problems of fielding a side.

The 2012 London Olympic Stadium
GettyImages / ShaunBotterillThe 2012 London Olympic Stadium

It has been widely expected that Great Britain would field a combined side for the first time in Olympic history, but ESPNsoccernet has been told of the enormous problems in keeping the players' clubs happy and the difficulties in finding a suitable solution.

"The big problem is that the European clubs do not want their players taking part in both the European Championships and the Olympics in the same summer,'' an FA insider told ESPNsoccernet.

"If players are given the choice, they are going to choose the European Championships. There is a move from the clubs to persuade most, if not all, of the major European nations to withdraw from the Olympics, and it might be that there is no suitable solution to how a GB team can take part either.

"Not only would the best players be required for the European championships, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) wants a GB team, and as yet only England are willing to put out a team, but there is no sign of Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland following suit.

"It is possible that England could field its very successful England Under-19 team, but the big question is whether the IOC would allow it.

"The strongest teams will come from Africa and the Middle East, and there is a double-edged sword here. England have a good chance of winning, but if they didn't, it would be hugely embarrassing.

"It isn't going to be much of an Olympic football tournament if Spain, Germany, Italy and France pull out and England along with them."

New FA chairman David Bernstein, who is taking charge of his first meeting, is also faced with government pressure to appoint two non-executive directors to the FA board. With the Department of Culture, Media and Sport conducting its current enquiry into the state of football, the FA knows this is an issue they will insist upon and resistance over the issue is believed to have lessened.