2012 Olympic Games: Great Britain Football Team

dennis hillyardContributor IJanuary 17, 2009

With the 2012 Olympic Games to take place in London, there is a growing demand that we should enter a Great British football team comprising of players from England, N.Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.

At the first glance this would seem to be a reasonable demand as certainly it would generate additional fan and television viewers from the home nations.

Unfortunately, there is one very important fact that has been overlooked which is as follows.

For a number of years now, FIFA has been inundated with requests from nations wishing to participate in the World Cup. While this demand has continued to grow year by year, FIFA has resisted saying that they cannot accommodate any more countries unless any existing member countries withdraw, or are suspended.

Both non-member and member countries have responded by pointing out that England enjoy a privileged advantage where the World Cup is concerned in comparison to its participation in the Olympic Games.

Why? For the Olympic Games, whilst the various teams and individual competitors are entered as the Great Britain team, the fact is that all four home nations are represented under the Great Britain banner.

Accordingly then and understandably, if the same format were to be used for the World Cup then this would free up three additional places.

Statistics prove that the demand for this format has continued to grow in recent years and in my opinion, sooner rather than later it will be adopted and, even more so should a football team representing Great Britain be entered into the 2012 Olympic Games the long term and adverse effect is that it would have on all four home nations would be catastrophic.  

In addition, the problems caused would in my opinion, be almost insurmountable.


1)  Who would be responsible for the training and selection of the players and who would be responsible for selecting the managerial and coaching staff?

2)  With only one manager and coaching staff, how would the various games in all nations be observed in order to evaluate the various players?

3)  Would all of the games be played in England or, would the other three nations be included?



Under the present World Cup format, each of the four home nations have a final squad of 22 players, a total of 88 in all.

Based upon this premise then, each nation can accommodate several young players to train and play alongside their more experienced peers. A classic example being Theo Walcott, the former Southampton and now Arsenal player.

Sven-Goran Eriksson selected him even though he had never played in Premier League.

It is immediately obvious that it is extremely unlikely that Theo would have been selected based upon a squad selection format where all 22 places have to come from the four home nations.

Experience would always be favoured at the expense of youth.



As stated previously in this article, my belief is that should the plan for a Great Britain team be adopted then this will bring about the change in the World Cup format much sooner rather than later.

Although I now live and coach in the United States, I am able to stay in touch with the English soccer scene via television, press and the Internet. It may well be that I have missed it but, to my knowledge, I have not seen any concerns expressed by the Football Associations of the four nations or indeed, other football agencies, fans or any of the media outlets etc.

Sadly, England is not in a position to use its history in the World Cup as a rightful claim to be allowed continued participation under the present system.

The fact is, that whilst it is generally agreed that England introduced the "modern game" back in the 1850's, apart from winning the World Cup in 1966, it has achieved very little on the international stage before or since. At the same time, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have achieved even less success.

These facts are hardly likely to generate too much sympathy or indeed support from FIFA and those nations seeking a change. 

Whilst I hate to sound the "ultimate pessimist", at the same time I like to think that I am a realist and whilst nothing would please me more than to see my fears unfounded, I believe it is not a matter of IF but WHEN.