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May 29, 2009

England to go solo with 2012 Olympic team?

The long-running row over Great Britain entering a team to compete in the London 2012 Olympics has appeared to come to an end, after the four home nations struck a deal which would allow an English side to compete at the Games.

The four Football Associations have sent a letter of intent to FIFA saying Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still have no intention of playing in the Olympic tournament but will not prevent an England team from doing so.

The world governing body would have to ratify the agreement before it is officially confirmed.

FIFA had set a deadline of the end of the month for the four home nations to come to an agreement over Olympic representation and, after months of debate, last-ditch talks on Thursday between the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish FAs led to a breakthrough.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter had already made it clear he would accept an English side representing Britain, but had warned the other three associations against becoming involved in case it threatened their status in the future.

Friday's deal should see the end of a bitter dispute over the Olympic football teams that has raged since 2005 when London won the right to host the Games.

The turning point came this week when the SFA board softened their stance against any move to allow an Olympic team after testing the water internationally.

The feedback was that there was a danger of their intransigence causing them damage in international football circles.

SFA head of communications Rob Shorthouse confirmed the proposal to let England go it alone had been put forward to FIFA, but insisted that it will be Team GB ''in name only''

Shorthouse said: ''The fundamental point to make is the Scottish FA will not be changing its stance on Team GB. We're absolutely against the four nations playing in a unified team, so Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland's stance hasn't changed. We're acknowledging there's very little we can do to stop them going forward.

''We're acknowledging the fact that England are of a mind to put a team forward for the London 2012 Olympics. Our view and the view we will be expressing to the football family around the world is that it's Team GB only in name because Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will not be involved.''

It is understood the SFA were worried their independence within FIFA would be threatened more by just saying 'no' than if they were to agree to this compromise.

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