Casey Stoney fears for Team GB's Olympic future


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The Independent Online

Great Britain skipper Casey Stoney fears the men in suits will wreck any attempt to repeat their thrilling Olympic experience.

The disappointed etched across Stoney's face as she made her way out of the City of Coventry Stadium last night told its own story.

After that sensational win over Brazil in front of 70,000 at Wembley, defeat to Canada came as a massive blow.

Stoney's regret went beyond irritation at a couple of clear penalty shouts that were not given.

It came from an acceptance that GB failed to show up until it was too late.

However, Stoney also knows the attention she and her team-mates have been desperately seeking for so long has been captured.

In excess of 150,000 watched GB's four matches, plus millions more on TV.

The challenge, as with most Olympic sports, is to keep it, as cycling and rowing have done but shooting, for instance, cannot.

And for all the rancour about men's football, there can be little doubt the women's game is a perfect fit within the five-ringed extravaganza.

The problem, as ever, is politics.

"The women's game is the perfect fit for the Olympics. If you can't see that from this Olympics, you will never see it," said Stoney.

"Realistically, the chances are zero but I would be so disappointed if it didn't happen again.

"Look at the interest. Nearly four million watching the Brazil game on TV, 70,000 in the stadium. If we had got to the final, we would have sold Wembley out without a shadow of a doubt.

"The interest is there and it has to continue.

"This tournament has captured the attention of a nation. Hopefully the people upstairs are listening."

Given the opposition the Football Association faced in trying to assemble a side for a tournament being played on home soil, it would take an extreme amount of desire to force through similar plans for Rio in four years' time, if GB, through any of the Home Nations, manage to qualify.

It means the women's game must maintain its profile through the domestic Super League competition, and also the England team, who are next in action on September 19, when they take on Croatia in a Euro 2013 qualifier.

"Our argument has always been if we give the women's game a platform, people will want to watch it," said Stoney.

"It would be unrealistic to think thousands of people will suddenly start turning up, but I do think attendances will increase in the WSL when it starts again in a fortnight."

Indeed, the 30-year-old's next match will be for Lincoln Ladies at Birmingham on August 18, by which time she will have returned to work at the Youth Sports Trust.

"It is going to be hard to come back down from this," she admitted.

"There is a sense of injustice at some of the decisions that went against us, but also pride at what has been achieved.

"Hopefully my boss will give me a couple of days off but after that, it is straight back to the grindstone."