Welsh, Scots angered by British soccer agreement



Welsh, Scots angered by British soccer agreement London: Scotland and Wales reacted with anger and surprise on Tuesday after the British Olympic Association trumpeted a 'historic agreement' to end a 52-year absence and enter British soccer teams in next year's London Games.

The BOA made what it called a 'landmark' announcement a day after Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan stated publicly Scotland's continuing opposition to being involved with any British team.

A spokesman for the Welsh FA, who have also been against their players joining a British team, said the BOA statement appeared to be "just a rehashing of old news and bits and pieces" and came 'completely out of the blue".

"There is no new agreement signed or any deals reached," Ceri Stennett told Reuters. "The status quo remains the same."

The BOA said the men's and women's sides would be selected and managed by the English FA.

"Consistent with requirements set out in the Olympic Charter, the selection criteria will be entirely non-discriminatory," it added.

"Players from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and other territories which fall under the BOA's remit as an NOC, who meet the approved competitive standard will be eligible for consideration and selection."

The BOA said the FA had consulted with the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland associations to develop the selection criteria and timeline.

"It has been a long, six-year journey to get to this point, with very real considerations from the Home Nations that first had to be recognised, respected and resolved," said BOA chief executive Andy Hunt.

"We absolutely respect the participation of the Home Nations as individual nations at all other football events," he added.

"I want to express my appreciation to all four Football Associations for their recognition of just how meaningful it will be for Team GB to compete in football in London 2012."

A 'long list' of potential players will be drawn up later this year, with those included asked to confirm their interest and availability to compete. The announcement of both squads will be made next summer.

The BOA added that all four nations had received a written assurance from FIFA that participation in the Games would not compromise their ability to enter their own national teams for other FIFA-sanctioned tournaments.

The debate over the participation of players from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in a British team has simmered since the Games were awarded to London in 2005.

The three associations fear they will lose their independent status within FIFA if they allow their players to take part, despite their membership being enshrined in FIFA's statutes.

Regan made clear in an interview on the SFA website on Monday that Scotland's position had not changed.

"We are opposed to taking part in Team GB," he said.

"We need to protect our identity and have no interest in taking part.

"I guess Andy (Hunt) is under a great deal of pressure from the London Olympic Games Organising Committee and the IOC to get tickets on sale for the football events," added Regan.

The second round of British ticket sales for London 2012 starts on Friday, with 1.7 million of the remaining 2.3 million tickets on offer being for the men's and women's soccer tournaments.

Some of those matches will be held in Cardiff and Glasgow, where sales have reportedly been slow given the likely absence of home-grown players.

Britain last competed in the men's tournament in Rome in 1960 and won gold medals in 1900, 1908 and 1912. The women have never before taken part in Games.

Bureau Report