A former UK sports minister has welcomed reports that the Prime Minister is considering plans to change the name of the British Olympic team from ‘Team GB’ to ‘Team UK’ on the grounds that it excludes Northern Ireland.
One-time Labour MP Kate Hoey, who now sits in the House of Lords, served as Sports Minister under Tony Blair.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Baroness Hoey said Team UK would be a better name.
“I would welcome this very much. Given the way in which we generally have not sold the Union, it’s important for Scotland as well,” she said.
"The ‘United Kingdom’ says it much much better than ‘Great Britain’. It’s not that the British Olympic Association (BOA) was against the name, but their PR people always said it was easier to say ‘Team GB’ than ‘Team UK’ — but that’s nonsense.
“I think it could happen. I can’t see why anyone would oppose it."
Officially, the British team is called the ‘Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Team’ but since 1999, the British Olympic Association has used Team GB in its branding.
At present, sportsmen and sportswomen from Northern Ireland may choose whether to compete for the British team or Team Ireland at the Olympics.
Changing the name of the British team from Team GB to Team UK would not affect their freedom to choose.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis are understood to have been consulted.
Unionist politicians also backed the name change plan, with former Stormont Sports Minister Gregory Campbell MP describing the current Team GB branding as inaccurate.
“Progress towards a Team UK branding would be more inclusive and accurate and something I would welcome. It is a matter I raised with the BOA years ago when I was Sports Minister in NI. I have raised it several times since with Government ministers also. It would be a positive move which no one in Northern Ireland should object to,” he said.
East Belfast UUP MLA Andy Allen also backed the name change plan, saying: "I recently had the immense honour of competing at the United States Department of Defense Warrior Games as part of Team UK which I felt accurately reflected the make-up of our team.
"I would be supportive and would indeed encourage changing from Team GB to Team UK which would more accurately reflect the make-up of the athletes from across the UK.”