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This house would enter a united football team for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Olympics
This house would enter a united football team for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Olympics
The United Kingdom is generally seen as the birthplace of football (soccer) as the world currently knows it today. The first formal set of rules were drawn up in the UK by The Football Association in 1863, the first official international game took place in 1872 between Scotland and England in Glasgow and the world's first football league was setup in England in 1888. But despite being the birthplace of the sport the United Kingdom does not currently field a Football team in the Olympic Games. Every four years the debate rages as to whether the UK should field a team in the sport in which it created, however with the 2012 Olympics being awarded to the United Kingdom in 2007 the debate has become much fiercer than usual.
The core reason there has not been a UK Olympic Football team for over 40 years, despite it being the number one sport in the UK, is that the four countries which make up the United Kingdom; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, each have separate independent football bodies, footballing leagues as well as currently playing as separate footballing nations in the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Cup competitions. So should the United Kingdom form a combined team for the Olympics or are the obstacles for this to happen too great?
|Points For||Points Against|
|The United Kingdom should field a team in each Olympic competition||The team will be dominated by English players and would not truly be a United Kingdom Team|
|With the 2012 Olympics being held in London the practical hurdles for creating a UK team are lower than ever.||The footballers would not take the tournament seriously, for it is not as important as the World Cup, and therefore it's not worth the hassle of putting a team together|
|Having a UK football team at the Olympics will be good for national unity and demonstrates the Olympic spirit||Entering the Olympics as a single team threatens the independence of the separate nations in FIFA and UEFA competitions|
|The competition is not worth winning, and therefore not worth the risk to the footballing independence of the nations|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
The United Kingdom should field a team in each Olympic competition
Due to the rules around Olympic Football in regards to qualifying, which make it impossible for the United Kingdom to qualify, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for footballers of the UK to play Olympic Football.
To enter the event there is a qualification round, in Europe the UEFA Under-21 Championship event is not only a stand-alone competition it is also used for Olympic qualification1; as UK nations enter this competition as separate teams it means that the UK cannot normally enter the Olympic event as they would technically have four chances to qualify whereas each other country has only one.
However, as the UK is the host nation of the 2012 Olympics it gains automatic qualification for all the events at the games, including football, which it would usually be illegible to enter. The home nations should pull together and enter a unified team to the Olympics as it is quite literally a once in a lifetime opportunity to have any team from the UK playing Olympic Football, to not enter a team despite having qualification is quite unheard of and as the UK is the home of football it would be a vast disappointment if the UK did not enter. The Olympics is meant to represent the top of each sport and for the UK not to enter a team for what is the most popular sport in the country seems an odd state of affairs.Improve this
While the opportunity for a UK team to play in the Olympics is a unique occurrence due to how qualification is organized it is not in itself an adequate argument in favor of a UK team.
Firstly, and particularly if a UK team was to do well or even win the Olympic event, it could be suggested by the Olympic Association that the UK should re-enter the competition, this could only be done if the UK was to scrap national teams and play as the UK in both FIFA and UEFA competitions due to how qualification is organized.
Furthermore, as the Olympic football tournament is arguably not worth winning (as will be later explained) so the hassle around creating a team what should be a one off occasion is not worth the hassle, especially if it threatens the independence of the four nations in other competitions. For almost all the other sporting events the Olympics represents the highest level the sport can be played, this is not the case with football whereby the FIFA World Cup is considered the top form of the game The low value of the Olympic men's football tournament can be demonstrated by it being (mostly) an under-23 competitionImprove this
With the 2012 Olympics being held in London the practical hurdles for creating a UK team are lower than ever.
One of the major barriers of the UK entering a team into the Olympics has been gaining the permission of FIFA, whose stance has traditionally been that the UK cannot play as separate nations in FIFA and UEFA football tournaments and then come together for the Olympics as one team, they must be either entirely together or entirely separate.
However as the 2012 Olympics are being held in London, FIFA has officially sanctioned the creation of a one-off UK team for the 2012 Olympics only. Sepp Blatter, the FIFA President, has personally stated 'a British Olympic football team would not affect at all the privileges of the four British associations as members of FIFA'1. The barriers of creating a UK team then are therefore lower than ever and it should be acted upon. The Act of Union demonstrated the nations of the UK can pull together, and for this one-off UK-based event the footballing associations should put their differences aside and seize this opportunity while the barriers to its creation remain historically low. If there is any attempt in the future to use this union as proof that the nations should permanently join, the independent football bodies would simply be able to point to or lean on FIFA's permission; the explicit sanctioning of the UK team for London 2012 is all the assurance necessary to compete without fear of repercussions.Improve this
It is one thing to get FIFA to grant permission for the creation of a one off UK football team, it is entirely another issue trying to get the separate national footballing bodies working together never-mind having to harmonize the political pressures from the devolved Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments who fear the bringing the footballing nations together could symbolically threaten their growth or even existence. It is a misnomer to suggest that just because FIFA has granted permission the barriers are lower than ever, with devolved governments gaining ever more power the situation has become more complicated than previous years. The Scottish would also state that the Act of Union analogy argument is flawed, many Scots believe that they were forced into the union against their will by the English and that this is the same situation with the creation of this unified UK Football team. While the removal of the FIFA barrier is useful to those who want a UK team it is arguably one of the easier practical problems to overcome in the creation of the team.Improve this
Having a UK football team at the Olympics will be good for national unity and demonstrates the Olympic spirit
The Olympic Creed states that "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."1
As the UK is the host nation of the Olympics in 2012 it should now, more than any other time really follow this creed and take part in all the events particularly as they have the opportunity to do so having got automatic qualification for all the events; not doing so would be undermine the Olympic ideal.
A UK football team would be good for national unity. By giving all 60 million people in Great Britain and Northern Ireland the same team to cheer for, it will make them feel more united. Since 1997 Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been given a lot of political power over their own affairs. This is good but there is a danger that we lose sight of our common British identity and the government is keen to find ways of promoting Britishness,2 including a British football team.Improve this
While the Olympic Spirit is a noble one it is fundamentally too simplistic to say that by not entering a UK team the Olympic Creed is undermined. For the nations of the UK to sacrifice their footballing history which has a longer legacy than the modern Olympics whereby the football event is not even taken entirely seriously, is absurd. The Olympic Creed is simply a marketing invention by IOC (International Olympic Committee) in order to give the host nations, which spend millions on hosting them, a justification for doing so which stretches far beyond sport.
The idea that creating a one-off UK team for the Olympics will bring the nation together is not only hard to imagine, seeing the vast amount of rivalry between the nations, in footballing terms, but also the concept that a one-off sporting event, which is not considered that important, could achieve this is deluded.
Rather than actually being good for national unity it could in fact be bad, imagine the scenario that a UK Football team is formed, firstly what national anthem would they use? Well it would have to be "God Save The Queen" the official national anthem of England and the United Kingdom, but not of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, secondly and more pressingly when the game got underway the fans would not know what to chant as to being so used to their nations playing separately; what a UK team may do then is rather than bring the nations together it could simply demonstrate the differences between them.Improve this
The team will be dominated by English players and would not truly be a United Kingdom Team
England is easily the strongest footballing nation out of the four which make up the UK, as judged by the official FIFA Ranking system1. It would seem logical that if the UK Olympic team are looking for the strongest setup that the team would be mainly, if not entirely, made up English players. The team in this case would not then be truly a UK team, simply an English team under the UK Flag, a team which only the English could get behind and not the rest of the UK.
Even if there are assurances that players from all four nations will be picked this would not solve the issue as it will undermine one of the core ideas behind the Olympics, the idea that the best from each field should compete. The UK team may very well contain the best players from all four nations in this scenario but it may not necessarily be the best team one could create from the UK as a whole, people would not be able to get behind a team which is not as good as its potential due to the effects of politics nor could it get behind one which is made up entirely by English players.Improve this
The idea that the UK team would be made up entirely of English players is ridiculous, there are strong players in all the nations which have a legitimate chance of playing for the team. The selection would be made entirely on the skill of the players and not there nationality, just as it is for the other disciplines in the Olympics. It is true that the team could theoretically be made up of English players, but it is also true that it could technically be entirely Welsh for example.
If it did transpire that the UK team was made up of players from a single nation, as long as there was a fair chance for all players from all nations to get into the team it would be ridiculous to suggest that the whole of the UK would not be able to get behind the team. Take for example the UK Curling team in the Winter Olympics, this is made up entirely of Scottish players yet the whole of the UK get behind them or take tennis, the whole of the UK often gets behind the Scottish player Andy Murray. If supporters of league teams are able to get behind opposition players when they play for England, for example, they will be able to support Scottish players when they play for the United Kingdom.Improve this
The footballers would not take the tournament seriously, for it is not as important as the World Cup, and therefore it's not worth the hassle of putting a team together
Players know that the Olympics is nowhere near as important as the World Cup. As proud Scots, Welshmen, etc. they want to get on to the world stage with their own nation, or not at all. And for those over the age of 23 the Olympics would be meaningless anyway, for they are never likely to get the chance to compete. The timing of the Olympics raises also big problems for football. It comes soon after the European Championships, for which all four nations hope to qualify and precedes the start of the European club season. By August the players will already have gone back into club training and begun the domestic season. Playing in the Olympics would disrupt the start of their season, especially for those at the biggest clubs who will be trying to qualify for the Champions League or UEFA Cup. Clubs are unlikely to accept their players being away for such a crucial portion of the season, and further, will not want to see them injured in an effectively meaningless tournament.Improve this
A UK football team would be an entirely different experience to playing at a World Cup for one's nation, and not necessarily a lesser experience. Great footballers like George Best (Northern Ireland) and Ryan Giggs (Wales) never got to go to a World Cup because their nation didn't have ten other players good enough to qualify for the tournament. Scotland has not got to a championship finals for ten years, and Wales and Northern Ireland have little chance to doing so now. Picking a UK team for the 2012 Olympics would allow our best players to perform at the highest level and represent, perhaps for the only time, their unified state. They would surely also value a chance to take part in the Olympics, the world's greatest sporting stage.Improve this
Entering the Olympics as a single team threatens the independence of the separate nations in FIFA and UEFA competitions
If the four nations of the United Kingdom join together for the Olympics it may be used by FIFA and UEFA to demonstrate that it is possible to unify the nations and that perhaps the special statute in the FIFA constitution which allows the nations to play separately1could be scraped. In 2008 the UEFA general secretary David Taylor in 2008 stated in regards to Scotland playing in a UK Olympics team that ""It is the quickest way for Scotland to disappear off the international stage."2 The FIFA president is also quoted as saying ""This will put into question all the privileges that the British associations have been given by the Congress in 1946."3 So the fear that this could happen is not unfounded.
Keeping the nations separate is important, the first ever international football game was between two UK nations, Scotland and England, all the nations have since subsequently grown strong independent footballing identities, for these to be thrown away for the interest of football structural politics is not only a snub on history it would not be tolerated by any of the four nations of the United Kingdom.Improve this
The unification of the four nations for the purpose of the Olympics will not threaten the independence of the four nations. FIFA has stated outright that it this will not happen as a direct result of an Olympic UK team. FIFA stated on the issue that "The executive committee confirmed that the participation in the 2012 London Olympic Games of a single team representing Great Britain would not affect the existing individual status of the four British football associations. For the Olympic Games, they have to play in one entity."1 While the idea may come up for debate it will not be the direct result of an Olympic UK team so the issues should not be mixed up.
Having England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland play as separate countries is nothing more than an historical relic. Their position is unique in the world and cannot be justified. Just because the game was invented in England should not give the UK the right to enter four times as many teams as other countries in international tournaments. It is time the four nations came together and put aside past differences for the good of football.Improve this
The competition is not worth winning, and therefore not worth the risk to the footballing independence of the nations
The Olympic football tournament is not worth winning anyway. For almost all the sports involved, the four-yearly Olympics are the most important competition to win – more so than say the Athletics, Rowing or Gymnastics World Championships. This is not true for football, where winning the World Cup or even a regional tournament like the European Championships matters much more, both for players and fans. Indeed, the Football World Cup gets even more spectators and viewers worldwide than the Olympics does; FIFA estimates 715 million watched the most recent World Cup Final in 2010,1 whilst even the Olympics showpiece event, the 100m final, was watched by only 87 million in 2004.2 The low value of the Olympic men’s football tournament is also recognized by it being (mostly) an under-23 competition – a restriction that applies to no other Olympic sport.
Football is worth winning, all the more so because, as the United Kingdom's most popular sport, football represents an excellent chance for the UK to win Olympic medals in both the men's and women's tournaments. Lord Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Authority, has stated 'we would expect a British team to be strong medal contenders and thereby generate tremendous excitement throughout the country'1. If Britain is to improve on its fourth-place Beijing total of 19 golds and 47 medals overall, then they need to seize every such opportunity. Although no British team has won the World Cup since England in 1966, surely this is because their footballing talent is divided four ways. So the four national teams are each much weaker than a united team with the 11 best UK players would be. Wouldn't it be great just once to put out a team which really had a chance of beating Brazil, Germany or Argentina? The combined talents of the United Kingdom offer such an opportunity.
1 BBC (2008d.) Why is there no GB Olympic football team? [online] [accessed 7th July 2011]
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