By David Owen

Gareth_Bale_for_Wales_v_BulgariaDecember 23 - The British Olympic Association (BOA) is on a collision course with some of the British home football bodies over the selection of non-English players for the London 2012 Olympics.

In remarks made just days after the Football Association of Wales (FAW) reiterated that Welsh players, such as Tottenham star Gareth Bale, would risk suspension if they take part in London 2012, Andy Hunt, the BOA's chief executive, has told insidethegames that "our selection policy has to comply with the Olympic Charter".

This confers on every individual the "possibility of practising sport without discrimination of any kind" as well as assigning National Olympic Committees the role "to take action against any form of sport".

"We cannot have an explicit agreement that excludes non-English players from the team if they have expressed a wish to be selected," Hunt said.

Bale, widely seen as the one non-English player who would be certain of a starting-place in a genuinely British Olympic football team, said in a recent interview that "I would love to play in the Olympics, especially as it would be a part of a Great Britain team."

But the FAW, along with its counterparts in Northern Ireland and Scotland, fears that if it allows that to happen it will jeopardise its independence to compete in major events like the World Cup and European Championships.

BOA Chairman Lord Moynihan sought to address these fears earlier this month in an appearance before a committee of MPs, saying he was "sensitive" to their concerns.

"That is one of the reasons that we worked with FIFA to make sure that letters went out from [FIFA President] Sepp Blatter to them making absolutely clear that there was no threat whatsoever to their autonomy and to their independence in playing as Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England," he continued, adding: "Clearly England don't feel the same threat."

He went on: "I believe that if we need to repeat these assertions, or we need to do some further work to give comfort to the Home Nations, we should do that because I respect their concerns and I think those concerns need to be overcome.

"But I think this is now an issue that can be dealt with in the interests of the athletes."

Moynihan underlined the importance of selecting on merit, arguing that to discriminate against an outstanding athlete "by saying, 'I refuse to allow a Scottish footballer, or a Welsh footballer, or a footballer from Northern Ireland to participate'...would be in total breach of the Olympic Charter...

"It is the selection on merit that matters to us.

"We are not in a position to discriminate and discrimination is in breach of the Olympic Charter.

"So we will take the best team we can and the FA, who are the governing body on the National Olympic Committee responsible for running the selection programme for the teams, will clearly adhere to the Olympic Charter...

"It is for the Football Association (FA) to speak to the domestic football associations to determine how to implement that clear policy and to avoid discrimination of any form."

Moynihan also expressed the view that if "a home nation football association was to discriminate against a player...then that player, I expect, would have recourse".

He added, however, that this was "not a matter for the BOA, it would be a matter for the player and the football association concerned".

Hunt said, in similar vein, that the "right of appeal for each player would be first with their governing body".

The BOA would then consider "whether we would support any action they [the player] might bring on grounds of alleged discrimination".

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