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United Kingdom
Association None
Head coach None appointed
Captain None appointed
Most caps ???
Top scorer ???
FIFA code N/A
FIFA ranking N/A
First international
United Kingdom Great Britain and Ireland 12 - 1 Sweden Sweden
(London; 20 October 1908)
Biggest win
United Kingdom Great Britain and Ireland 12 - 1 Sweden Sweden
(London; 20 October 1908)
Biggest defeat
Bulgaria Bulgaria 6 - 1 Great Britain United Kingdom
(Melbourne, Australia; 30 November 1956)
Olympic Games
Appearances 6-8 [1] (First in 1908)
Best result Gold, 1912[1] 1908[1]

No United Kingdom national football team currently exists as there are separate teams representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in football. These national teams compete in the World Cup and European Championships and other internationals.

A UK team has played in friendly matches, and from 1908 to 1972 a Great Britain (prior to Irish independence: Great Britain and Ireland) team competed in the Olympic Games, but there has not been a UK or GB team since 1972. The British Olympic Association have stated that a GB team will be formed to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London,[2 ] although this proposal met resistance from the Scottish Football Association in particular.[3 ] A compromise was eventually reached between the four associations. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales decided not to be involved with the team, but also announced that they wouldn't block an England-only team from representing the United Kingdom.[4]

Contents

Background

When the world's first football association, The Football Association (FA), was formed in 1863, its original geographical remit was not clear: there was no specification of whether it covered just England, the entire UK or even the entire world. The question was answered when a separate national football association for Scotland, the Scottish Football Association (SFA), was founded in 1873. The third national football association, the Football Association of Wales was founded in 1876 and a fourth, the Irish Football Association, (IFA), was founded in 1880.

Football therefore developed with separate associations and national teams for each of the countries of the United Kingdom and no 'United Kingdom football association' was ever formed. Representative international matches between England and Scotland were played as far back as 1872, before the sport spread to other parts of the world, but none of the Home Nations took part in a World Cup until 1950 because they had withdrawn from FIFA over disputes regarding the payment to amateur players and did not rejoin until 1946.

England has been the only team to have any major success internationally, winning the 1966 World Cup. Scotland have never progressed beyond the group stage of any international tournament, despite competing in final tournaments of eight World Cups and two European Championships. Northern Ireland have not qualified for a finals tournament since 1986, and Wales have not since 1958. This is sometimes raised as an argument in favour of a single United Kingdom national team: based on statistical analysis of recent matches, it has been estimated that a United Kingdom national team would have had a one-third greater chance of winning the 2006 World Cup than England did at the tournament's outset[5]. Opponents of the plan argue that the existing footballing identities of the fans of the Home Nations should not be sacrificed simply to stand a better chance of success.

There has been limited support for the creation of a permanent British national team. Although often hypothetical in nature, such a proposal has been put forward by prominent government ministers, including Jack Straw[6] and Tony Banks. [7]

Olympic team

Until 1972

Olympic medal record
Men's Football
Gold 1908 London Team
Gold 1912 Stockholm[1] Team
1908 Great Britain and Ireland Olympic Football team

In the past, there has been a team representing the United Kingdom in the Olympic football tournament.[8] The composition and naming of this team varied over time. The Football Association states that the only 'British' team to win a medal was that at the 1908 Games, when the team beat Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark.[9][10] This team, however, was made up entirely of English players [11] Some sources continue to refer to this team as the England national amateur team,[12] whilst others still simply label all participations as Great Britain.[13] The FA, on its behalf, offers no explanation as to why it refers to the 1908 team as Great Britain and the 1912 team as England.

British teams have won medals on two other occasions. At the 1900 Summer Olympics a demonstration football tournament was held, in which Upton Park F.C. of London competed against USFSA XI of Paris and Université Libre de Bruxelles of Brussels. Upton Park were the winners and this tournament has retrospectively been accredited by the International Olympic Committee with their medal awarded to Great Britain in medal counts. The English national amateur won gold at the 1912 Games, again defeating Denmark in the final.[9] Once again, this England team was considered to represent Great Britain and the medal is listed in Great Britain's medal totals.

Since then, all 'Great Britain' Olympic football teams were organised by the Football Association with the acquiescence of the other Home Nations' FAs. The squads were predominantly made up of English players,[9] although some none-English players were involved.[14][15] Great Britain has not competed in the Olympic football tournament since 1972, when they were knocked out in the qualifying rounds by Bulgaria.[9] The last occasion on which a Great Britain and Northern Ireland team reached the Olympic finals was the 1960 Games. After the Football Association scrapped the distinction between professional and amateur players in 1974, no more British Olympic teams were entered.[9]

1972 to 2008

Since 1972, Olympic rules have been relaxed to allow professionals to take part, but no GB team has been entered. Each of the Home Nations enter the European Under–21 Championship, which functions as the European qualifying competition for the Olympics. This means that a Great Britain team cannot qualify, although there have been examples in the past where an individual home nation would have qualified if it were eligible.

The British Olympic Association initially refused to rule out the possibility of entry for the 2008 Summer Olympics,[16] but a team was not entered. England qualified for the Olympics by reaching the semi-finals of the 2007 Under–21 Championship, but Italy took their vacated place by winning a play-off match against Portugal. The England women's team also qualified for the 2008 Olympics, through their performance in the 2007 World Cup. They were denied a place at the Olympics, however, because the other three Home Nations refused to give their consent.[17]

London 2012

Due to London's successful bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics, a Great Britain team would qualify as of right of being the host nation. The British Olympic Association has stated it will enter a GB team into the 2012 Olympics.[2 ] The proposal for a GB team was initially supported by the FA in England and the Northern Irish FA, but the Scottish Football Association refused even to attend meetings at which the Home Nations were to discuss the possibility.[3 ] At those meetings, the Football Association of Wales stressed it was strongly against the proposal. The FAW Council then voted to withdraw from the negotiations.[18 ]

In October 2007 the Northern Irish FA also announced that they would not take part in a unified team either, leaving England as the only Association willing to take part. Despite the opposition of three of the Home Nations, a 2005 opinion poll, published by the British Olympic Association, showed that a majority of Scots supported the creation of a team for the 2012 Olympics.[19] A joint statement issued by the official fan clubs of all four Home Nations voiced their opposition to the plan, however.[20] Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was offered the job of coaching the team by Lord Coe, but it is unknown if he will accept.[21]

Various prominent politicians have offered their opinion as to whether there should be a British team in the 2012 Olympics. Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated during the 2008 Olympics that he wanted a British team and would work towards that happening, although he acknowledged that it could affect the autonomy of the Home Nations.[22] First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond then stated his opposition to a British team, arguing that Brown must be "seriously out of touch with Scotland" to support it.[23] In December 2009 the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, said that a government led by him would not back the creation of a UK squad, favouring instead a home international championship to decide which team should represent Britain at the Games.[24]

The position of FIFA, football's international governing body, is seen as critical as to whether a British team will play in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The SFA's opposition to the plans are rooted primarily in the fear that the Home Nations would be forced to field a combined team in all competitions.[3 ] This would mean the loss of the special status of the Home Nations, which is established under FIFA's constitution.[25] FIFA President Sepp Blatter had given assurances to each of the British Associations that their status would not be affected by fielding a combined team in 2012, stating:

We have confirmed in writing that they have to provide a Great Britain team for the 2012 Olympics, but the four British associations will not lose the rights and privileges acquired back in 1947.[26]

The SFA refused to change its position, arguing that Blatter's personal opinion and permission may not matter once he has left office, and that they do not wish to jeopardise their status.[3 ] The case for a GB team appeared to be strengthened by the decision of the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball to permit a combined volleyball team to participate at the 2012 Games,[27] but Blatter seemed to change his view in March 2008. He stated that "they should enter only a team composed of players from England",[28] and he suggested that the independent status of the four British associations could be harmed by a unified team.[28]

UEFA chief executive David Taylor, a former chief executive of the SFA, said in August 2008 that a British Olympic team would threaten the existence of the individual home nations.[29] Taylor also said that the unique status of the Home Nations had come under attack before from other FIFA members, and that it was "difficult to see what guarantees could be given" to protect that status.[29]

At a conference held in conjunction with the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, the prospect of a UK team for the 2012 Olympics was discussed by the FIFA Executive Committee, who gave their approval.[30]

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. The ball is now in their turf..We expect a solution that will be presented to us for the month of March.[30]

A compromise was eventually reached between the four associations, whereby a squad of English players only could represent Great Britain.[4] The FAs of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales sent a joint letter to FIFA stating that they would not participate, but that they would not object to England participating alone.[4]

Friendly results

Great Britain (1947)
Great Britain (1955)
The kits worn in the two past matches:
• Scotland's blue in 1947.
• Northern Ireland's green in 1955.

In addition to matches at the Summer Olympics, the Home Nations have previously united to play two friendly internationals against 'Rest of Europe' representative sides. On both occasions, they included all four Home Nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Despite Northern Ireland's participation, both matches were played under the name of 'Great Britain'.

1947: the Match of the Century

The 1947 game, dubbed the 'Match of the Century', was played to celebrate the return of the Home Nations to FIFA (they had left in 1920). For the match, played at Scotland's Hampden Park in front of 135,000 spectators, the Great Britain side wore a navy blue strip in honour of the host association. The gate receipts, totalling £35,000, helped boost the finances of FIFA, which had been damaged by the lack of competition during World War II.[32] On that occasion, the Great Britain team consisted of:

Frank Swift (England), George Hardwick (England), Billy Hughes (Wales), Archie Macaulay (Scotland), Jackie Vernon (Ireland), Ron Burgess (Wales), Stanley Matthews (England), Wilf Mannion (England), Tommy Lawton (England), Billy Steel (Scotland), Billy Liddell (Scotland).[33]

1955: Irish FA's anniversary

The 1955 game was played to celebrate the Irish Football Association's seventy-fifth anniversary. For this reason, the match was held at Belfast's Windsor Park, and the British team took to the field wearing Northern Ireland's green strip. The Great Britain team fielded comprised:

Jack Kelsey (Wales), Peter Sillett (England), Joe McDonald (Scotland), Danny Blanchflower (Northern Ireland), John Charles (Wales), Bertie Peacock (Northern Ireland), Stanley Matthews (England), Bobby Johnstone (Scotland), Roy Bentley (England), Jimmy McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Billy Liddell (Scotland).[31]

Other matches

Two other games were played between Wales and a team representing the rest of the United Kingdom, with players from England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The first match, in 1951, commemorated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Football Association of Wales. The second match, in 1969, commemorated the investiture of the Prince of Wales. In both cases, the England, Scotland and Northern Ireland select team played under the name of 'Rest of the United Kingdom'.

Other results

At the 1991 Summer Universiade, the United Kingdom team won the bronze medal.

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c d There have been a variety of teams representing the United Kingdom at the Olympic Games. This team in its early years was the England national amateur football team playing in the colours of the United Kingdom. Sources differ as to whether this team should be considered a UK national team or an England national team
  2. ^ a b 'GB football team to enter Games', BBC Sport, 30 September 2006.
  3. ^ a b c d No Scots for GB Olympic football, BBC Sport, 11 November 2005.
  4. ^ a b c Nations pave way for 2012 GB team, BBC Sport, 29 May 2009.
  5. ^ "The Auld Opponent". The Times. 15 June 2006. Retrieved on 2006-07-05.
  6. ^ "Red card for Straw's 'British team' idea". Travis, Alan; The Guardian, 29 November 2000. Retrieved on 2006-07-05.
  7. ^ "'Jerusalem' to spur England to Euro 2000 promised land". Harris, Ed; Evening Standard, 8 May 2000. Retrieved on 2006-07-05.
  8. ^ The team representing the United Kingdom is typically known as Great Britain or, in recent years, Team GB, when competing at the Olympics. [1]
  9. ^ a b c d e "Britain's Olympic past". Barber, David; The Football Association, 3 March 2004. Retrieved on 2006-07-05
  10. ^ Games of the IV Olympiad. Aarhus, Lars; RSSSF, 15 October 1999. Retrieved on 2006-07-05.
  11. ^ Football at the 1908 London Olympics Sports-Reference.com
  12. ^ Scoring for Britain Beck, Peter J. 1999; Routledge: 55
  13. ^ Football Tournament of the Olympic Games - Overview RSSF; Accessed 12-12-08
  14. ^ Ronnie Simpson, www.sports-reference.com
  15. ^ Modest Hopes of British XI at Melbourne The Times; November 15, 1956; Subscription
  16. ^ "Britain looks to Beijing after Scotland's snub to 2012 Games". Goodbody, John; The Times, 12 November 2005. Retrieved on 2006-07-05.
  17. ^ Caborn blasts women's Games snub, BBC Sport, 4 December 2007.
  18. ^ Wales oppose GB Olympic football, BBC Sport, 6 December 2005.
  19. ^ Mackay, Duncan. Survey shows Scots back united Olympic team, The Guardian, 20 October 2005.
  20. ^ Fans Groups Oppose GB Oplympic Team, Association of Tartan Army Clubs, 1 October 2006.
  21. ^ Dickinson, Matt. Lord Coe lines up Alex Ferguson to take charge of British Olympic side, The Times, 1 March 2008.
  22. ^ Brown pays tribute to GB success, BBC Sport, 24 August 2008.
  23. ^ Salmond rejects UK football team, BBC News, 25 August 2008.
  24. ^ "David Cameron would not support a GB football team". Sunday Times. 20 December 2009. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article6962750.ece. Retrieved 21 December 2009.  
  25. ^ FIFA StatutesPDF (6.67 MB). FIFA, 12 September 2005. Retrieved on 2006-07-05.
  26. ^ Smith 'excited' by Olympic team, BBC Sport, 2 September 2005.
  27. ^ British volleyball team for 2012, BBC Sport, 27 October 2006.
  28. ^ a b Blatter against British 2012 team, BBC Sport, 9 March 2008.
  29. ^ a b Uefa chief warns against GB team, BBC Sport, 28 August 2008.
  30. ^ a b GB football team gets Fifa assent , BBC Sport, 20 December 2008.
  31. ^ a b c England Player Honours - International Representative Teams. England Football Online, 14 February 2005. Retrieved on 2006-07-05.
  32. ^ History of FIFA. FIFA. Retrieved on 2006-07-13.
  33. ^ Norman, Giller (2004). Football And All That. London: Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 115–116. ISBN 0-340-83589-3.  







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