London 2012 was the first time ever a women’s football team was put forward by Team GB at an Olympic Games.
By Matt Slater, Press Association Chief Sports Reporter
Great Britain’s best female footballers will be given the chance to compete for Olympic gold for only the second time in history, Press Association Sport understands.
While the British Olympic Association and Football Association have been keen to enter Olympic tournaments in the past, the FAs of the other three home nations have objected because of fears about the precedent it would set for a combined team and, therefore, their independent status within football.
These concerns were sufficiently addressed in 2012 to allow Team GB to field men’s and women’s teams on home soil – the first time for the men’s side since 1972 and the first time ever for the women’s team.
Thanks to England’s third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup, Team GB qualified for the women’s competition in Rio but the old worries about independence reemerged and ruled out a genuine medal opportunity.
The BOA and FA are determined to avoid this happening again and have now reached a similar compromise with the Football Association of Wales, Irish Football Association and Scottish Football Association as to the one agreed before 2012 – they will not stand in the way of any player or coach who wants to join the combined team.
A BOA spokesman told Press Association Sport it “remains committed to the participation of a women’s football team in Tokyo 2020” and it has responded to a request from FIFA for an update on the British position.Team GB made it through to the quarter-finals at London 2012 (Adam Davy/PA)
A spokesman for FIFA confirmed that it has received a letter from the BOA “on eligibility matters concerning the potential participation of a GB team” in 2020 and will announce further details in due course.
It is understood, however, that with all major concerns now addressed, the way is clear for a GB women’s team to try to improve on their showing in 2012, when they memorably won their three group games, including a 1-0 victory over Brazil before 70,000 fans at Wembley, only to lose 2-0 to Canada in the quarter-finals.
Phil Neville, England’s new manager, has made no secret of his ambitions to follow Hope Powell’s example by taking the GB job and he wants gold, providing they qualify by finishing among the top three European teams at next year’s World Cup.
Speaking to reporters at St George’s Park on Monday, Neville said: “Finishing third is not in my mind. When we go to the World Cup, the Olympics or the European Championships I want to finish first.”
Powell’s team was made up of 17 English players and two Scots, and while England have since improved their ranking to third in the world, Scotland are at 23, Wales 35 and Northern Ireland 55, so there is a chance the team will include players from all four nations.
There is, however, no chance of Team GB fielding a men’s team in Tokyo, as the clubs would be opposed to another summer tournament to accommodate.
The FAW, IFA and SFA are also more sensitive about their independent status when it comes to the men’s game and it is not felt the players themselves need the extra publicity.
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