Rhun ap Iorwerth today criticised the English FA’s attempts to form a Team GB football team for the 2016 Olympics as something that ‘threatens the independence of our FAs’.
The GB football team at the 2012 Olympics was pitched as a one off, but still caused outrage as Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland saw the move as a threat to their independent status.
The emergence of a possible team for 2016 has seen the FA come under fire for organising the proposal with the British Olympic Association without the consent of the other three nations.
Rhun ap Iorweth expressed his disappointment with The FA’s actions: ‘I am disappointed the English FA would do this. We were told at the 2012 Olympics that a Team GB football team was a one off.
‘The FAW and SFA made it quite clear in 2012 that they were opposed to it but here the English FA are now going into 2016 and surprise, surprise they want a Team GB again.’
FAW President Trefor Lloyd Hughes added: ‘The BOA should be more open and transparent. It’s supposed to be the British Olympic Association not the English Olympic Association.
‘I am absolutely gutted with the English FA. If they want to work with us they have to be more open with us and they don’t seem to be keeping to agreements. I’m livid about it.’
Mr ap Iorwerth noted that although assurances have been given by FIFA that joining forces for the Olympics wouldn’t threaten each country’s status, the implications of a GB Team are huge.
‘This taps into a much bigger debate about national identity. We have a great, longstanding tradition of our teams playing independently of each other and against each other. ‘Frankly I think we should make sure we aren’t in a position where we undermine in anyway the integrity or the independence of our own football associations,’ He added.
The ex-journalist said that as well as the discussions that are known to be on-going between the home nations now on this matter, the public and politicians have a role to play in proceedings.
‘Politicians have a role because at the end of the day some of us are football fans and if we can use our platform to bring attention to the issue and help in any way then we have a responsibility to do so.’
The reaction to this issue in Wales particularly has been very anti-Team-GB, as many high-profile figures have criticised the proposal, but some have used the British and Irish Lions as an example of how this could work.
Mr ap Iorweth acknowledges that point but outlines the key differences: ‘I support the British and Irish Lions but the situation is totally different as there is a lot more respect to each country.
‘You only have to look at the badge to see that – each country is fairly represented. As well as that, it is a specialised tournament that is played every four years and selects players from each nation.’
The Plaid Cymru AM also referred to home nation cricket teams as an example of the disrespect that Wales could receive if it were to become part of a Team GB.
Having noted on his Twitter feed that he felt Wales could’ve qualified for the group stages of the Cricket World Cup, Mr ap Iorwerth said to me: ‘The situation regarding cricket is quite disrespectful to Wales I think.
‘What is officially abbreviated to ECB is actually the Wales and England Cricket board, and when the team plays they are only referred to as England which is totally disrespectful to Wales.’ He added.
This morning saw rumours emerge in the Daily Telegraph that the FA’s proposal was in tatters as Wales and Northern Ireland have again taken a strong stance on the issue.
It is unclear whether or not the rumours have any substance but, given Trefor Lloyd Hughes’ insistence that it would be difficult to block the FA, expect this debate to develop in the coming months.