By Duncan Mackay

Aaron_Ramsey_Wales_v_GermanyApril 10 - Welsh stars Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey (pictured) will not be banned from international football if they play for Britain at London 2012, they have been assured, as the Home Nations begin to soften their stance on letting their players take part in the Olympic football tournament.

In a significant development, Bale and Ramsey met with officials from the Football Association of Wales (FAW) last month to discuss taking part in the Games amid earlier threats that they faced the prospect of ruining their international careers if they took part.

The FAW laid out their objections to why they were opposed to the Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal players representing Team GB and that they feared it could jeopardise the independence of Wales to take part in tournaments like the World Cup and European Championships.

But they admitted to Bale and Ramsey that there was nothing they could do legally to prevent them playing.

"We have an open dialogue with players and we've used that to ensure they are aware why we have taken the stance we have," FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford told Wales on Sunday.

The meeting followed news that another of Wales' best young players, Swansea City's 21-year-old striker Joe Allen, wants to play for Britain at the Olympics next year.

"I've obviously been a fan of the Olympics aside from the football that's played there," said Allen, who has two Welsh caps.

"It's obviously a massive event and personally I'd be excited to be a part of that.

"I'm similar to Gareth really and I think most players would see the chance to play in an Olympics as something positive and something to look forward to."

Players in Northern Ireland are also beginning to eye the prospect of playing for Team GB.

Stephen_CraiganStephen Craigan (pictured), who has been capped 54 times by Northern Ireland, has urged non-English players to defy their Home Countries and take part in the Games.

"It would be nice to see one of the top players breaking ranks, just to see what the reaction would be," said the Motherwell player, who at 34 is too old for the tournament.

"Whether he would be welcomed back or put out."

Jim Shaw, the President of the Irish Football Association (IFA), admitted that he would rather Northern Ireland players did not make themselves available for London 2012 but there was nothing that they could do if they did.

"Stephen is entitled to his opinion and I can understand players wanting to play for a GB team but our view is clear," said Shaw.

"We cannot legislate for players wanting to play in the team, if that is their choice I doubt whether we could stop them but it it is not something we will encourage or support.

"We must consider the IFA's interests in this matter and it would be very wrong if we didn't do that.

"We have to protect our interests."

Sport and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson and British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman Colin Moynihan have been active recently in trying to ensure that players from the Home Associations will not be discriminated against and prevented from playing for Britain at London 2012.

The latest developments will greatly help their case.

"Our position continues to be that the selection criteria should be broad enough to, at a minimum, allow for the consideration of players from each of the Home Nations," a spokesman for the BOA told insidethegames.

"This model is used very effectively in other team sports, such as hockey and basketball.

"When you see comments such as those that have been offered by players during the past few weeks expressing strong support for Olympic participation, you appreciate just how important and special this opportunity is."

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