FA attempts to win over Celts to 2012 cause


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The Independent Football

The English Football Association is in talks with its British counterparts to revive the Home Nations tournament in order to persuade Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to participate in the Great Britain Olympic football team at the London Games next year.

The FA believes that the old fears of hooliganism that were the chief reason the Home Nations tournaments were abandoned in 1984 are no longer a consideration and that they could stage the games without the threat of violence. The home internationals, which would also potentially include the Republic of Ireland for the first time, would not take place until 2013.

The move is part of a push to encourage the other British nations to take part in the Olympic team that will be a major part of the London 2012 Games. So far the other three Home Nations have proved unwilling, despite assurances from Fifa and Uefa that combining under the Great Britain flag for a one-off Fifa-approved tournament will not affect their historical independence.

They are worried that it could lead to them being told by Fifa that they have to compete permanently under the Great Britain banner. As well as the loss of their international teams, it would theoretically also mean the loss of their clubs' entry into European competition. Although Fifa have given assurances it will not happen, the governing body's recent track-record for unpredictability has made them nervous.

The English FA see the offer of a Home Nations tournament, and the revenue that will earn, as an incentive for the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish associations to drop their objections to participating in the 2012 Olympic team.

Another major factor is a big new sponsorship deal between the car manufacturer Vauxhall and the four home nation football associations that will be announced today. Vauxhall will fill the post of main team sponsor for the England team left vacant last year by the Nationwide building society's decision not to renew its deal.

England last played Scotland in 1999 in a two-legged play-off to qualify for Euro 2000, which was won 2-1 on aggregate by England, despite their 1-0 defeat in the second leg at Wembley. The stadium has been rebuilt since then and the FA believes that the culture of the supporters following both teams has changed to the extent that they would not risk the violence that blighted the fixture in the 1970s and 1980s.

The FA has officially cancelled England's friendly against Thailand scheduled for June. The game was part of the push to convince the Fifa executive committee member Worawi Makudi to vote for the doomed 2018 World Cup bid. He told English 2018 officials even before the vote that, despite the friendly game timed to mark the 65th anniversary of King Bhumibol's accession to the Thai throne, he would not be voting for them. England will play Ghana at Wembley on 29 March.

On the cancelled Thailand game, the FA said: "Although an informal agreement had been reached for a friendly match following the qualifier with Switzerland, no formal details in terms of match date or venue had ever been established and, following discussions by the FA board, it was decided not to go ahead with the fixture."