No Rio for Team GB Football?

This article has already been written three times before this effort, and three times we’ve had to tear it up due to far too much angst and negativity.  We’ve sincerely loved the warmth and good feeling generated over the course of the Olympic Games and for the most part we’ve never known a climate of positivity around women’s sport to rival that which exists right now.

How typical of football to go and spoil it.

Football – the beautiful game?  Football – the sport to unite nations?  Football – the spoilt kid in the corner of the classroom.

This morning Alex Horne, the Football Association Secretary, expressed the following in an interview with The Times, discussing the future of Team GB:

“Within the men’s game, it’s not going to happen again,” Horne told the Times.

“On the women’s side I’m going to say it’s unlikely, for the same reason.

“But you can understand why it’s more compelling. Olympic football for women is the pinnacle.”

We have to admit, we weren’t really surprised.  Given the opposition that greeted the notion of Team GB Football in the first instance, the idea that it might continue beyond our home games was fanciful at best.  What we failed to realise – and what the FA continues to ignore – was just how impactful women’s football was going to be on the Olympics.  70,000 people turned up to watch Team GB beat Brazil.  80,000 attended the USA vs. Japan final.  Dear footballing authorities – WAKE UP.

More worrying is the still clear inability of the FA to comprehend the standing of the women’s game on a global basis. Hunt finished his quote today by stating that Olympic football for women is the pinnacle of their game, but why highlight Olympic glory as the pinnacle of women’s football yet not of men’s?  Does women’s football not have a World Cup to play in?  If so, someone should probably tell reigning World Champs Japan that they’ve got it all wrong.  How about European Championships?  If those are only relevant in the men’s game, someone should really tell Hope Powell’s England team that they’ve wasted a lot of time in imaginary qualifying matches over the past 12 months.  Yes, the men’s game competes in the Olympics under a different pretext to the women’s game, but that does not make it more compelling for one than the other.  Even members of Team GB’s men’s squad have spoken publically about how good the Olympics has been.  Will football listen?  Has it ever?

Sadly we knew this statement was coming, ever since the final whistle of the quarter finals when GB came up against ultimately superior Canadian opposition.  The FA’s position is clear enough – in 4 years, who’s going to remember?  It’s largely ignored women’s football to date, why not continue?  The real money is in the Premier League; in filling out Wembley stadium (or not filling it out as the case so often is) with pointless August international friendlies; in Community Shield matches with as much charitable feeling as a Friday night punch up.  For all the good people that pass through it, the FA remains a zone for those with a Y chromosome and just enough balls not to shake up the establishment.

We still have hope though.  With enough consideration, enough support and enough concerted effort, it is still possible that Team GB might have a future.  It needs work from within the game – through committed supporters like Hope Powell – and from outside, from lobbying and support bodies, from the media, from the grassroots.

Ironically then today’s statement might have come at just the right time.  With such positive feelings behind Team GB Women’s Football post-Olympics the chief governing body may receive more opposition than they banked on.  The country wants Team GB represented in the women’s football in four years’ time.  Anything less would be a real disappointment.

CS.

Image from http://www.thefa.com (thanks!)

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