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IFA fury over GB football team ‘agreement’ for Olympics

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson last night slammed the British Olympic Association after they hailed a ‘landmark agreement’ over a Great Britain Olympic football team.

The BOA announced yesterday that Great Britain will play in the Olympic football tournament at London 2012, after a 52-year absence — and that has caused a major row across the UK.

As well as uniting with his counterparts in Scotland and Wales in strongly opposing football being played under the GB banner in London, Nelson insists that such an agreement does not exist.

What has really made Nelson angry, however, is the revealing of communication between football’s world governing body Fifa and the four British associations, which the BOA claims protects the individual nations regardless of their participation as GB in an Olympic tournament.

The BOA stated: “All four Associations have received a written assurance from the Secretary General of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (Fifa), the international federation for football, that participation in the 2012 Olympic Football Tournament will in no way compromise their autonomy and independence for other Fifa-sanctioned tournaments.”

And Nelson has told the BOA to mind their own business.

“The British Olympic Association have released a statement that we’d no idea about,” Nelson told the Belfast Telegraph.

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“We have spoken to our fellow associations in England, Scotland and Wales and made our position clear to the English FA — but we have never spoken to the BOA.

“The BOA has said all of this and mentioned communication from Fifa. It is not up to the BOA to tell the world about any communications that we might have with Fifa.

“That communication doesn’t change anything anyway. We are an independent member of Fifa and Uefa and as far as we’re concerned that is our past, present and future,” added Nelson.

“Regardless of any assurances from Fifa to the Irish FA, we play competitively as Northern Ireland in all competitions and we want that to continue to be the case.”

The BOA’s announcement claims that all four British associations have been in consultation with regards to ‘non- discriminatory’ selection and a criteria on players, yet the stance of the football governing bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is unchanged and despite the English FA being in favour of fielding a team they have never received any backing from their fellow British associations.

Great Britain hasn’t participated in an Olympic football event since 1960 and it now looks like that will continue to be the case, at least for the foreseeable future.

“We cannot support or endorse the approach that the BOA has taken. There is no historical agreement,” added Nelson.

“I understand that the issue of a Great Britain football team taking part in the 2012 Olympics has been ongoing for some time, possibly as far back as the time when London was announced as the successful bidders to host the games.

“I have only been party to discussions since I became chief executive of the Irish FA in 2009. The then Executive Board debated the matter in 2009, but never gave it any support.”

The English FA are now expected to go it alone in the Olympics under the GB name in both the men’s and women’s football competition — although the BOA insist that all British players will be considered for selection.

“Consistent with requirements set out in the Olympic Charter, the selection criteria will be entirely non-discriminatory, as players from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and other territories which fall under the BOA’s remit as an NOC, who meet the approved competitive standard, will be eligible for consideration and selection,” said the BOA’s statement.

e GLENTORAN are facing a race against time to secure a friendly before facing Macedonian side Renova in the Europa League, after Welsh side The New Saints pulled out of Saturday's proposed game at the Oval.

TNS, who were drawn against Cliftonville in the Europa League, like the Reds, play on a 3G pitch and told Glentoran they would be better suited preparing for their games on an artificial surface.

Ironically Cliftonville beat TNS 2-1 last Saturday and followed that up with a 4-2 win over Finn Harps last night.

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