Great Britain has not entered a soccer team into Olympic competition since the days when only amateur players were sent to compete. In modern times, the four separate associations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) have barely discussed the idea of a unified team for fear of setting a precedent. That is, if they entered a single team for the Olympics, FIFA might reason they must do so for the World Cup and European Championships as well.
But with London hosting the 2012 games, 'Team GB' is coming under pressure to form a united soccer front. FIFA President Sepp
Blatter once hinted that his body would allow it as a special one-off, but he's a slippery character at the best of times, and recently said a unified team "will put into question all the
privileges that the British associations were given." That's why in Scotland, the soccer establishment is not in the least bit interested in sending out its players to line up alongside the
English, despite the wishes of Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (a Scot).
"The national team comes first and, at the moment, we are keen to keep our nationality intact," said
Scotland manager George Burley. "We have to have a national Scottish team and we can't put that in jeopardy." Former Scottish national team player Eamon Bannon told Martyn McLaughlin that "the
football authorities in Scotland see the idea as the thin end of the wedge. If it were to go ahead, it would intimate the end of a separate Scottish team. What's more, if you had to pick a team
tomorrow, you would be lucky to find any Scots in it."
Then there's also the question of the "privileges" that Blatter referred to, much resented by many in the world soccer community. In
1947, with FIFA almost bankrupt, the head of the English FA, Sir Stanley Rous, negotiated a deal whereby the proceeds of (ironically) a game between Britain and a FIFA XI were donated to the world
governing body "in exchange for a fixed British vice-presidency and maintenance of the four home nations. That anomaly," writes McLaughlin, "has continued to this day, and the home nations enjoy a
power in the game that other nations have come to regard as disproportionate, considering their relative failure in major tournaments over the years."