SNP MEP and MSP Launch Global Olympic Football Consultation

23 February 2009
SNP Member of the European Parliament Mr Alyn Smith has teamed up with MSP Stuart McMillan to launch a global survey of all 204 national football association members of FIFA to canvass international opinion on the desirability of Team GB and the inclusion of football at the London 2012 Olympics.

The SNP duo back the Scottish Football Association in their view that the inclusion of football in the Olympics is simply undesirable on the grounds that:

* The Olympics is not the pinnacle of achievement in football. The World Cup and European Championships are regarded as the major tournaments;

* The Olympics football tournament is designated as an Under 23 contest, specifically in order to avoid undermining the FIFA World Cup. This restriction de-values the involvement of football and introduces a discriminatory element which is unique to the sport; and

* The Olympic Games take place in August which simply does not fit with the footballing calendar.

The pair have written to all 204 national football associations, from Albania to Zambia, to make them aware of the joint position adopted by the Northern Irish, Welsh and Scots FA that the inclusion of football in the Olympics is simply undesirable for the sport, and asking for the views of the FAs to gauge what sort of enthusiasm exists for the Olympics amongst footballers.

Smith and McMillan are of the view that the UK government and UK Olympic Association are looking increasingly out of step with the international opinion on this issue, and that the inclusion of a Team GB football team in the London Olympics is a poorly conceived political project and should be shelved.

The move follows the intervention of UEFA President Michel Platini in a letter to Alyn Smith in which he said: "You may rest assured that I am most firmly committed to the independent status of the Scottish Football Association and that UEFA has no plans to alter that status or the status of the other home football associations."

Smith said:

"This is not just about the independence of the SFA, the inclusion of football in the Olympics alongside synchronised swimming, archery and other worthy but minority sports is just wrong headed. A Team GB for football will not only establish a damaging precedent against the SFA, but will also undermine the other major football tournaments and from the discussions I have had I am pretty confident that not only is there no real appetite outside of New Labour for this to happen, I think we're in with a shout of heading it off altogether.

"There is still a long way to go before the London Olympics, and I'll not let this rest."

Stuart McMillan added:

"I'm disappointed to see the Westminster Government is continuing with the idea of a Team GB football team at the Olympics. There is no appetite for this within Scotland and for that matter within the football associations of Wales or Northern Ireland.

"This ill-thought out idea must be stopped before it damages the independence of the SFA and undermines Scotland's footballing reputation. This is why both Alyn and myself feel it necessary to write to the 204 national football associations to gauge their opinions on this important matter."

The letter the SNP duo has sent to all international football associations is reproduced below.

20 February 2009

Our Ref: AES/Olympics & Football

To Whom It May Concern:

FOOTBALL AND THE OLYMPIC GAMES

In the wake of recent calls regarding the creation of a Great Britain football team at the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics, the Scottish Football Association, Irish Football Association and Welsh Football Association have issued a joint statement expressing their opposition to this proposal. This opposition is centred on three key points:-

1. The Olympic Games involves many different events but one common factor that should prevail is that participation and success in the Games should be the pinnacle for the sport in question. This is certainly the case with track and field, gymnastics, cycling, rowing and swimming. However, in football this is certainly not the case. The World Cup and European Championships are regarded as the major tournaments. It is their opinion that football should not be regarded as an Olympic event.

2. Their contention that football is not, and should not be, considered a serious Olympic event is substantiated by the fact that it is designated as an Under 23 contest. They consider that this not only de-values the involvement of football in the Olympic Games but it also means that a discriminatory element is introduced to the event. No other sport has an age-related qualifying element. They feel that this, in itself, is an unacceptable regulatory inclusion.

3. The Olympic Games takes place in August. This appears to take no account of the fact that the football season has already begun and that clubs would be materially inconvenienced with the loss of called-up players. At this time, it is not known which players would be required. However, it is easy to anticipate the reaction there would be from club coaches who would lose players at a time when they had vital matches to fulfil. This may even include crucial European qualifying matches.

It is for these reasons that I believe that football should no longer be an Olympic event. I would be obliged if you could indicate your support on this matter in order to assist us with this campaign.

If you would like to discuss this matter further then please do not hesitate to get in touch. My co-ordinates are below, and I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Alyn Smith MEP & Stuart McMillan MSP