June 21 - The British Olympic Association (BOA) have sparked a row after claiming it has reached agreement for a Team GB side to compete in both the men's and women's football competitions at London 2012 with a controversial deal that leaves the way clear for players from all Home Countries, including Wales' Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale (pictured), to take part.
As insidethegames reported last week that they would, BOA have made it clear that any players from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will be considered for the squad, along with those of England, despite the opposition from their National Football Associations.
Arsenal's Ramsey and Tottenham Hotspur's Bale have both made it in clear in recent weeks that they want to be involved in the Olympics.
"For the 2012 Olympic football competition, the British sides will be administered by The Football Association which will have responsibility for nominating the managers, players and support personnel to the BOA for final selection to Team GB," the BOA said in a statement.
"Consistent with requirements set out in the Olympic Charter, the selection criteria will be entirely non-discriminatory, as players from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and other territories which fall under the BOA's remit as an NOC (National Olympic Committee), who meet the approved competitive standard will be eligible for consideration and selection."
The BOA have shrugged aside the fears of the Home Countries that by taking part in a united British team it could jeopardise their independence and threaten their participation in events like the World and European Championships, despite Scottish FA chief execuive Stewart Regan having made it clear as recently as yesterday they remained opposed to the idea, although he conceded that they had no control over preventing individual players from making themselves available.
"The FA has consulted with its partner Associations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in developing the player-selection criteria and timeline," the BOA said.
"All four Associations have received a written assurance from the Secretary General of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international federation for football, that participation in the 2012 Olympic Football Tournament will in no way compromise their autonomy and independence for other FIFA-sanctioned tournaments, nor will it have any impact on their positions of leadership within the FIFA governance structure."
But Scotland and Wales reacted with anger at the announcement of the plans, even though Hampden Park in Glasgow and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff are due to host matches during the Olympics and London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe (pictured) visited the Scottish city in March to hand over the Olympic flag signifying that they are are a host city.
"The FAW can confirm that no agreement has been reached with regards Team GB and the 2012 London Olympics as announced by the BOA," said Jonathan Ford, the chief executive of the Football Association of Wales.
"The FAW cannot support nor formally endorse the approach that has been proposed by the Football Association.
"This has been made clear in communications with the FA."
Regan took to Twitter to voice Scotland's opposition.
"No historic agreement on Team GB," he tweeted.
"Legally we cannot stop players being selected.
"Totally misleading comments from BOA."
Jim Boyce, Britain's FIFA vice-president and former President of the Irish FA, claimed he did not know of any agreement.
"The three Associations [Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland] have made it clear to me they will not be changing their decision about a British Olympic team and I know nothing about any agreement," said Boyce.
The three Associations later issued a joint statement.
"The Football Associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland reiterate our collective opposition to Team GB participation at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, contrary to the media release issued by the British Olympic Association today," it said.
"We have been consistently clear in explaining the reason for our stance, principally to protect the identity of each national association.
"With that in mind, we cannot support nor formally endorse the approach that has been proposed by the Football Association.
"We have stressed this in communications to them and are disappointed that this has been ignored in the media release.
"No discussions took place with any of us, far less historic agreement been reached, prior to the statement from the BOA being released.
"The Associations are committed to supporting the individual Home Nations playing all representative football under their respective flags as independent members of FIFA and UEFA.
"This position has been endorsed by supporters of all Home Nations, who have been consulted throughout this process."
It was a claim that the BOA denied.
"Contact [from The FA] has been continuing with the Home Associations right up to the last 24 hours as part of a consultation process that has been ongoing for the last 18 months," a spokesman told insidethegames.
"All the Home Associations were aware of the prospective timeline, including the possibility of an initial announcement in June, since mid-May."
Britain won three of the first four Olympic titles after the sport made its debut at Paris in 1900 but have not won a medal since their last gold at Stockholm in 1912 (pictured).
Britain last played in the Olympics at Rome in 1960 but entered the qualifying competition for 1964, 1968 and 1972, failing to reach the Games on each occasion.
After the FA scrapped the distinction between professional and amateur players in 1974, no more British Olympic teams were entered.
"Seeing Team GB take to the pitch in 2012 will be one of the defining moments of the London Olympic Games," said Andy Hunt, the chief executive of the BOA, who will be the Chef de Mission for the Games.
"It would be unthinkable to host the Olympic Games in Great Britain, home of the world's most knowledgeable and passionate football fans, and not have Team GB represented in both men's and women's football.
"We are honoured to be working in close partnership with The FA, on behalf of all four Football Associations, to fulfil this historic opportunity.
"It has been a long, six-year journey to get to this point, with very real considerations from the Home Nations that first had to be recognised, respected and resolved.
"We absolutely respect the participation of the Home Nations as individual nations at all other football events; 2012 is unique, we are hosting the Olympic Games and what has been achieved is fantastic for all those who love sport and love to watch great football.
"I want to express my appreciation to all four Football Associations for their recognition of just how meaningful it will be for Team GB to compete in football in London 2012."
The men's team will feature 18 players - 15 of whom will be Under-23, in addition to three "open age" players, leaving the way clear for David Beckham and Wayne Rooney to take part.
The women's team will also be comprised of 18 players, but there are no age restrictions.
An announcement of the managers for both Team GB sides will be made in due course, although it is widely expected to be Stuart Pearce, the current manager of England's under-21 team, and Hope Powell, who is leading England's women's team at the FIFA Women's World Cup, which is due to start in Germany next week.
Powell has already been announced by the BOA as the team leader for football at London 2012.
The player evaluation and selection process will then begin in the autumn with the development of a "long list" of potential players, as identified by the Team GB managers.
Players on the long list will be asked to confirm their interest and availability to compete for Team GB, if selected, following discussions with their respective professional clubs and Home Associations.
As competition draws closer, the long list will be reduced to a short list of players, and an announcement of the two squads to be made in the summer of 2012.
FA general secretary Alex Horne was excited by the prospect of Team GB playing at London 2012.
"We're delighted there will be football teams representing Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics," he said.
"It's important as the host nation, football plays its part in what is sure to be a fantastic spectacle.
"We are pleased that the team will be selected from players across the home nations and I'd like to thank our counterparts at the Welsh, Irish and Scottish FAs for their understanding on what is a difficult issue.
"We will look to confirm coaches of the men's and women's teams in due course to allow them to plan and prepare their squads for the Games."
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