FIFA Letter Assuring Home Nation Independence Falls on Deaf Ears

May 3, 2011

The three Home Nations Football Associations opposed to their players taking part in next year’s Olympic Games look set to continue their boycott despite a written guarantee from FIFA that a unified team will not affect their individual independence.

A letter sent by FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland promised that London 2012 would be a one-off in terms of an all-British team

However the assurance is believed to have made no difference and will not in any way change entrenched positions.

Britain’s new FIFA vice-president, Northern Ireland’s Jim Boyce, revealed that he would be happy – but only if formally requested to do so – to lobby FIFA on behalf of the three rebel Associations who fear that taking part in a unified team would ultimately lead to them losing their individual status within world football.

However, Boyce said Valcke’s letter of re-assurance was not prompted by him, adding: “I understand Jerome Valcke has written to them but I wasn’t the one to go to FIFA because I was asked not to do so.

“It was made abundantly clear to me by the Presidents of Scotland and Wales especially, and Northern Ireland, that they had already made their decision – and that they were not going to change it.

“It’s entirely up to them to decide if they are going to look at this but, as I say, they have told me they have made their decision and as the British FIFA representative, I have to respect that.”

It is understood that at least two of the three Home Associations – believed to be Scotland and Wales – took particular exception to the very suggestion of a written FIFA guarantee even though Boyce had no intention of going down this road without being requested to do so.

Boyce hinted that there would be no way out of the current impasse, with the last resort of a written FIFA assurance falling on deaf ears, saying: “[FIFA President} Sepp Blatter has stated it [a British Olympic team] would not affect in any way the independence of the three Associations.

“That was a verbal statement. I don’t know what prompted Valcke’s letter. Maybe FIFA themselves thought the British associations needed the same thing in writing.”

One other suggestion is that Olympic officials, increasingly anxious for a unified British men’s team at the 2012 football tournament, were the ones to put pressure on FIFA.