Home Nations FA’s Powerless to Resist Players Competing at London ’12

April 11, 2011

The likes of Welsh soccer stars Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have been assured that they will not be banned from the international game if they play for Britain at London 2012, as the Home Nations begin to soften their stance on letting their players take part in the Olympic tournament.

In a significant development, the English Premier League players, with Tottenham and Arsenal respectively, met with officials from the Football Association of Wales (FAW) last month to discuss taking part in the Games amid earlier threats that they faced the prospect of ruining their international careers if they took part.

The FAW laid out their objections to why they were opposed to young icons representing Team GB and that they feared it could jeopardise the independence of Wales to take part in tournaments like the World Cup and European Championships. 

But they admitted to Bale and Ramsey that there was nothing they could do legally to prevent them playing.

FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford told Wales on Sunday: “We have an open dialogue with players and we’ve used that to ensure they are aware why we have taken the stance we have.”

The meeting followed news that another of Wales’ best young players, Swansea City’s 21-year-old midfielder Joe Allen, wants to play for Britain at the Olympics next year with the player stating: “I’ve obviously been a fan of the Olympics aside from the football that’s played there.

“It’s obviously a massive event and personally I’d be excited to be a part of that.

“I’m similar to Gareth really and I think most players would see the chance to play in an Olympics as something positive and something to look forward to.”

Players in Northern Ireland are also beginning to eye the prospect of playing for Team GB.

Jim Shaw, the President of the Irish Football Association (IFA), admitted that he would rather Northern Ireland players did not make themselves available for London 2012 but there was nothing that they could do if they did.

Shaw added: “I can understand players wanting to play for a GB team but our view is clear.

“We cannot legislate for players wanting to play in the team, if that is their choice I doubt whether we could stop them but it it is not something we will encourage or support.

“We must consider the IFA’s interests in this matter and it would be very wrong if we didn’t do that. 

“We have to protect our interests.”

Sport and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson and British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman Colin Moynihan have been active recently in trying to ensure that players from the Home Associations will not be discriminated against and prevented from playing for Britain at London 2012.

A BOA spokesman stated: “Our position continues to be that the selection criteria should be broad enough to, at a minimum, allow for the consideration of players from each of the Home Nations.

“This model is used very effectively in other team sports, such as hockey and basketball.

“When you see comments such as those that have been offered by players during the past few weeks expressing strong support for Olympic participation, you appreciate just how important and special this opportunity is.”