Scotland told not to join British Olympic team

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The Independent Online

Hopes of a joint British team at the London 2012 Olympics have been dealt a major blow after David Will, who spent 17 years as a Fifa vice-president, warned that such a move would threaten the separate identity of the four home nations in world football.

Will retired from his post with Fifa in May, but has advised the FAs of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland not to take any risks whatsoever.

His opinion carries enormous weight with the home nations because of his years of experience inside world football's governing body – and he says Fifa president Sepp Blatter's assurances cannot be relied upon.

Will, a Scottish lawyer, said: "We [Scotland] should not take the chance of joining a British team. I'm sure Sepp Blatter means what he says but as there is nothing to stop any association bringing up a vote in Congress and saying 'the four British associations have played together at an Olympics so they can do so at a World Cup as well'.

"It is taking a huge chance to join a British team, even an Olympic team and why should the associations take that chance? I have never accepted that we should take such a risk."

The British Olympic management's best hopes now looks to be investigating whether they can field a team of English players as a British representative side in 2012.

Will said in terms of importance between participating in the World Cup or the Olympics there was only one winner. He added: "The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world and not the Olympics, despite what they say.

"The World Cup has more spectators and more televisions viewers so why should we put our independence on the line? It is more important to be in the World Cup as independent associations than in the Olympics as one. For many years there were threats to the independence and those could surface again."

The Football Association, meanwhile, is proclaiming its "strongest-ever financial position" after agreeing a range of deals with overseas broadcasters that will more than triple its income from international rights.

New four-year deals for the rights to FA Cup and England home games, which start next year, are worth a total of £145m compared to £39m for the previous four-year period.

The overseas deals will run in parallel with the FA's new domestic TV deal with ITV and Setanta, worth £425m over the same 2008-2012 period, a 42 per cent increase over the current contract.

FA chief executive Brian Barwick said: "This new deal is excellent news for the organisation, following on the back of opening Wembley Stadium, passing the structural review of the organisation, finalising our commercial partner programme and securing a domestic broadcast agreement. It means that the FA will be in its strongest-ever financial position, allowing us to substantially increase our investment back into all levels of the game.

"The new deal also underlines the enormous popularity of the England team and the FA Cup around the world, at a time when Fifa has opened the way for an English bid for the 2018 World Cup."

The identity of the successful bidders will be announced in due course once the contracts are finalised.

FA group commercial director Jonathan Hill said: "We are very pleased at the outcome of what was an extremely competitive tender process. The growth in the value of our rights reflects the continuing importance that broadcasters and sports marketing agencies attach to the FA Cup and the England team."

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