The Last Word: This political football is just about England

Arrogance wins the day as 'home nations' are steamrolled – but at least the FA will look good

It would only be right if an England football side took to the Wembley field in three years' time under the banner of "Great Britain". For it would nicely sum up the shameful myth about the 2012 Games. The Olympic bid might have been wrapped in a Union Flag and the politicians might have preached on about this "benefiting the whole of the UK" but this was always about England and only about England. They may as well appropriate the shirt because they have appropriated everything else.

In fact, it is becoming increasingly hard to understand why the other "home nations" should feel so enthused about this forthcoming Olympics. Yes, the jingoism and hoopla will doubtless make it a fortnight during which the majority from Bognor to Blaina, from Braemar to Bangor are swept along on a tide of patriotic fervour and a mighty "Rule Britannia" to that. But at what cost this short burst of feelgood? And paid for by whom and out of what?

Ask any Welsh sporting organiser (national or more importantly locally) what he or she thinks about the 2012 Olympics as their budgets are cut to the bone and the blade is traced directly right back to the heart of England. The Welsh Affairs committee "fear the country will lose around £100m in lottery money diverted to fund the event". That would be a damn sight easier to swallow if any cash happened to be heading back down the M4. But despite continued assurances from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that it was "committed to spreading the benefits across the UK", there is barely any physical or financial evidence of that commitment.

An MPs' report at the end of last year expressed concerns about the lack of Olympic events due to be staged in Wales – ironically it will amount to a few football games – and also discovered that Welsh businesses are set to make profits so paltry from the much-vaunted Olympics supply contracts that they are hardly worth recording. It is a similar story in Scotland and Northern Ireland. So what exactly are these benefits to the "whole of the UK"?

Ah, they will tell you, GB children, wherever they are, will watch the Games on TV and be inspired enough to unshackle themselves from that PlayStation and run out into the fresh air to launch their own personal bids for gold. What a pity that when they do run out there they will discover few fields to play on, fewer facilities to play with, and even less funding to maintain their new-found interest. So what will have been the point? Well, the politicians will have looked good.

And that is essentially what this latest Olympic football saga has been about. The FA want to look good, want to be seen to be doing the right thing, and in the process have done exactly the wrong thing. The other three countries have their reasons for not wanting to risk their independence and contrary to what those wonderfully naive souls believe – those who, God bless 'em, wanted to take the word of Sepp Blatter as a guarantee – this remains a clear and present risk. The FA know this and should have respected it, but pressed on with their idea of "going it alone". "There's very little we could do to stop them," said Rob Shorthouse, a Scottish FA spokesman.

No, only humility, or perhaps an inherent sense of democracy would have stopped them. In normal circumstances if you sat around a table with the three other members who supposedly form your "union", you would be expected to bow to the common will. The FA decided, however, that here was an exceptional case and, ridiculously, will now widely be regarded as heroes for making their stand. But not everywhere. In Scotland, Wales and Ulster there will be mutterings about English arrogance and quite rightly, too.

This will not be a GB team, no matter what it says on the badge. It will be an English team and will be there essentially because of English pigheadedness in steamrolling over the wishes and needs of their fellow home nations. Too much of 2012 will be marred by that stench.

Please go to Spain soon and end this Real farce

For roughly the 730th time in the last two years, one – or probably all – of the British national newspapers yesterday had a headline speculating on Cristiano Ronaldo moving to Real Madrid. Boring? Just an incey, wincey, weeny bit...

In fact, this saga has gone way beyond boring and descended into the mire of turgid farce. Its central character, of course, is the Portuguese playmaker/play-actor who through it all has flounced around like a big Jessie, rolling his eyes on occasion, getting all het-up on other occasions, but always seeming to be devouring the attention. Much as he acts on the pitch, as it happens.

Then there is Florentino Perez, the self-celebrated inventor of Los Galacticos who, in his desire to be re-elected as Real president, apparently believes no promise to be too transparent. This man would tell his audience he has lined up a front three of Bob The Builder, Postman Pat and Fireman Sam if he sensed that the under-three vote was to be crucial.

With respect to Manchester United supporters – who understandably find this on-off transfer excruciating for entirely different reasons, as they imagine European domination without their temperamental genius – the rest of us can only pray for a swift conclusion. Obviously, that would mean Ronaldo moving to the Bernabeu, but plenty of us have come around to the opinion, "well, so be it". To us, the tedium of the tale has long outweighed the talent of the talisman and if anyone deserves each other it's plainly these two. Cristiano and Florento. A match made in that hell called footballing heaven.

News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Sport
footballLive: All the latest from today's Premier League matches
News
Nick Clegg playing 'Palin or prom queen'
newsNick Clegg on TV's The Last Leg
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee