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 By PA Sport

Gianni Infantino allays fears of Olympic Team GB threat to home nations

Gianni Infantino at FIFA Congress
Gianni Infantino is in favour of a Team GB side at future Olympic Games.

A Team GB Olympics football side would not endanger the four home nations' independent status in the eyes of FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

The head of football's global governing body has allayed fears England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland could have their individual identities revoked if the four countries were to unite to re-establish a men's and women's team for future Olympic tournaments.

The British Olympic Association is keen to be involved in the football competitions in Tokyo in 2020, and Infantino's comments could remove one of the biggest hurdles which prevented any representation in the Rio de Janeiro Games earlier this summer.

"My view is certainly that I don't see this as being an issue," he told Press Association Sport. "I see things in a much more pragmatic way in general.

"The Olympics are such that there has to be one team from the United Kingdom, so if we can find a football solution which allows a football team from the United Kingdom -- and if they qualify to play -- then this would certainly not jeopardise in any way whatsoever 130, 140, 150 years of history of the four home nations. That's not an issue."

One-off teams were formed for the home 2012 Games in London, yet no one in either the men's or women's team hailed from Northern Ireland and there were just five Welshmen and two Scotswomen across the sides.

Chris Coleman, manager of the Wales men's national team, voiced his concerns about how English-centric any prospective squad would be and that may also dissuade the other home nations from signing up.

Infantino stressed it is up to the four countries to come to an arrangement which suits all parties.

"It's up for them to agree," he added. "They speak the same language so they should speak to each other and see how they can best agree to do something like that."

The FIFA president was speaking at the revamped Windsor Park in Northern Ireland -- a country that could benefit from his plans to expand the World Cup finals.

Infantino has raised the possibility of another 16 teams joining a tournament which currently includes 32 nations, and he does not believe that greater numbers would have a diluting effect on the output.

"It's not true that the quality goes down, it's quite the opposite," he said. "Let's not forget at the last World Cup, for example, if we speak about quality, England and Italy have been eliminated by Costa Rica. The quality is there. Football is a world sport and we cannot confine it just to a few countries. It's more than just Europe and South America, it's the world.

"We have to promote football, that's our job. A World Cup is a social event. You have seen it here in Northern Ireland but in all of the other countries when you qualify from November until June, the whole country vibrates with football and the national team.

"Kids go and register themselves at the clubs, boys and girls, everyone is interested in it. It boosts the whole football movement in a country and we have to foster that.

"There is nothing better than participation at a big tournament in order to foster this feeling for football. That's why I believe that the World Cup, like the European Championship, has to be expanded in terms of teams. What is the right number, what is the right format, all of this is open for discussion."

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