Andrew Warshaw

Folly of FA Olympic Decision

Created on 03 Sept., 2012 7:08 PM GMT

How short-sighted can you get?

No sooner do the Olympic Games come to an end than, in their utter stupidity, the English Football Association announce there will never again be a unified British team in the Games.

The reason why Team GB’s appearance at London 2012 was a one-off, we are told,  is because the FA don’t want to risk the status of the four home nations within FIFA risking their individual status by continuing with a combined side.

How ridiculous. Ask anyone who attended the football matches at the Olympics and they will tell you what a compelling tournament it was and how infectious the atmosphere was.

And just look at the crowds. Over 70,000 attended the women’s final, over 80,000 the men’s final. Okay, neither British team made it beyond the quarterfinals but that is no excuse for suddenly ditching the entire thing. Quite frankly the FA’s decision makes my blood boil.

Never before in the history of the women’s game had Britain entered a team. And only once in over half a century had the British men qualified.

Yet now, after showcasing their sport on the global stage in the best possible way in terms of its development, a decision has been taken to do away with entering a team completely. What a disgrace.

This foolhardy stance will come as a huge blow for the  women who, remember, beat Brazil in their final group game. But it will disappoint the men too.  Just listen to Manchester United midfielder  Tom Cleverley.

‘The way sport was showcased in the Olympics was an example for everyone in every sport,” Cleverly said. “It was unbelievable, something I look back on, even now, as being just amazing.’

Yet the views of Cleverley and others are being totally ignored just because of some paranoid fear that FIFA will somehow strip the national federations of their individual status if – only once every four years – they join forces and play as a unified team.

FIFA may not be perfect when it comes to making irrational decisions but the organisation’s very statutes would have to be changed for such radical action to be taken. If only the governing bodies of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland understood this instead of maintaining their deeply entrenched positions.

The only reason Britain participated at London 2012’s football event, so the argument goes, was because of home advantage. We are told that ending Britain’s involvement is inevitable since there would be no time for a qualifying period. I accept that argument but where there’s a will, there’s a way.

What I can’t accept is the sudden disinterest in the Olympic football tournament, verging on sheer apathy. It seems almost laughable to me that after playing up the importance of football at London 2012, those same people now openly dismiss the tournament as an event for other nations -- but not Britain. I have personally spoken with Britain’s most senior FIFA official who says there is no chance whatsoever of Britain’s four nations risking their individual status by carrying on in the Olympics.

What the authorities are conveniently forgetting is that with Team GB unlikely to figure again, players will miss out on an important learning curve as they attempt to bridge the gap between Under-23 football and the senior side. That, I have to say, is a crying shame.

But as I keep pointing out, it’s the women I feel most sorry for.  Before the Olympics, despite the introduction of the Women’s Super League, the women’s game was virtually shunned un the UK, ignored by a majority of the population. The general consensus was that the Games would act as a springboard to change such perceptions. The challenge was to turn those who performed at London 212 into household names, to use the profile of the Olympics to boost crowds at WSL matches, currently averaging a mere 550. 

Now, however the much-needed post-Olympic boost is virtually dead in the water.  Whatever, may I ask, ever happened to long-term legacy, the word London 2012 used so frequently before, during and after the Games?

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