Team UK: A Political Football

25 August 2008

Tom Griffin (London, OK): It seems the Westminster/Holyrood faultine inside the Scottish Labour Party extends to the question of whether there should be a UK football team at the 2012 Olympics.

Gordon Brown held out that prospect during his visit to Beijing at the weekend:

'I think when people are looking at the Olympics in 2012 - Britain, home of football, where football was invented, which we gave to the world - I think people would be very surprised if there is an Olympic tournament in football and we are not part of it.'

Scottish Labour leadership candidate Cathy Jamieson has proposed an alternative plan:

"One option could be a home nations football tournament with the winners representing the UK at the Olympics."

Jamieson added: "Team GB should include a football team but not at the expense of Scotland's football team. It would be wrong to gamble with the identity of Scotland's team."

According to the Daily Record, the Scottish FA remains firmly opposed to a UK team, but it's English counterpart is warming to the idea. This could lead to something along the lines canvassed by Sepp Blatter, with Britain represented by an effectively English team.

Meanwhile, the SNP Scottish Sports Minister, Stewart Maxwell, has called for a separate Scottish Olympic team:

If you look at Jamaica, a small island nation, they won gold, silver and bronze in the women's sprint, they've got world records, they've won the men's, the women's 100 and 200 metres and the relay. This is an exceptionally brilliant nation - at the same time a small nation. Scotland can compete on the world stage - we proved that in the Olympics - and a Scottish team at the Olympics is the future.”

That idea received short shrift from triple gold medal winner Chris Hoy:

There's nothing I love more than going home to Edinburgh, but I haven't lived in Scotland for nine years. There just aren't the facilities to train there – if there were, then I would live there. But like Craig MacLean and Ross Edgar – who are the other Scottish cyclists on the British team – I have to be based in Manchester.

On the face of it, Hoy's comments are a blow to the SNP. They may, however, point to deeper questions about the distribution of investment in sport that will only intensify over the next four years.

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