English FA committed to 2012 GB team

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The Independent Football

Britain will definitely field a team in the men's soccer tournament at the 2012 London Olympics even without the backing of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the English FA's chief executive said today.

"Do I think we should have a team representing football in the 2012 Olympics? Yes," Brian Barwick told the BBC.

He said the team composition was for a later debate and was backed by FA chairman David Triesman, who said he was "completely committed" to Britain competing.

Britain, champions in 1908 and 1912, have not played in the men's Olympic soccer finals since 1960 and have never entered a women's team because of concerns that the independent status of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could be compromised.

Although Fifa president Sepp Blatter has repeatedly said that their status is enshrined in the ruling body's statutes and would not be undermined by a British team taking part in 2012, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland FAs have been staunchly opposed to it.

Blatter has said that one way around the problem could be if only English players were selected. Fifa also said in 2005 that, as host nation, Britain had to enter teams in the 2012 Games.

The long-running debate now appears to be over with both Barwick and Triesman committing to entering a team.

"We have to respect the views of (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), but this is an Olympics that is going to take place in London in four years time. There's an appetite for us to have a team," Barwick said.

Triesman added that it would be "barking mad" if Britain did not field a football team at the London Olympics.

"I can see no good reason for not having one at all. Whatever it has to be comprised of, we will have a team in the 2012 Olympics," he insisted.

The Olympic soccer tournament mainly comprises players aged Under-21 although up to three over-aged players are allowed to take part. The men and women's tournaments start in Beijing before the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday.