GLASGOW, August 30 (RIA Novosti), Mark Hirst - FIFA, the world governing body, would like to combine the United Kingdom’s four competing international sides into one UK team, Scotland’s most successful national football manager Craig Brown told RIA Novosti.
“I know from previous experience that FIFA would like to combine us. I’m convinced that rather than the UK having four votes they would like to have one only,” Brown, who was in charge of the Scottish national squad for 70 international matches, longer than any other Scots manager, told RIA Novosti.
Brown spoke after a FIFA source told RIA Novosti that fresh efforts would be made to combine the UK’s four national sides following a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum that takes place in less than three weeks.
“If Scotland votes No then you're going to see that debate [about the UK pitching four teams] erupt again. There is going to be real pressure to have that UK disparity finally dealt with. In the wake of a No vote many of the countries envious of the UK's special footballing status would see this as a perfect opportunity,” the FIFA source said.
Brown told RIA Novosti that the late David Will, former President of the Scottish Football Association and later Vice-President of FIFA, had warned him that FIFA’s aim was to combine the four “home nations” of the UK into one and that the governing body had previously pushed hard for a single Team GB to play during the Olympics.
“David Will, who has sadly passed away, wrote to me saying don’t allow this to happen because FIFA would like to combine the four home countries,” Brown said.
“The strong advice from David was don’t allow a GB team to participate in the Olympics which would be the thin edge of the wedge because that would be the indication that we are prepared to co-operate and play as a GB team,” Brown told RIA Novosti.
“We have resisted and twice we have qualified for the Olympics with the under 21 team but we didn’t play because of the implications,” Brown added.
Brown said the implications of a No vote that led to FIFA demanding a combined UK team would have implications for the other four countries and told RIA Novosti that any team GB would be unlikely to have players from Scotland, Ireland or Wales selected to play for it.
“Any decision to combine the four countries would affect Wales and Northern Ireland. England feel they are team GB already,” Brown said.
“Emphatically I would want us to stay our own nation in terms of football. I know from David Will and others that FIFA would like it to be a GB team. That is their feeling,” Brown told RIA Novosti.
“The composition of any team GB would depend on who was picking the team but I don’t think it would contain many Scots, Irish or Welsh,” Brown added.
Earlier the Scottish Conservative party moved to distance itself from comments made by an English Conservative MP who called for a single UK team to be established if Scots reject independence.
Lawrence Robertson, the MP for Tewkesbury, had told RIA Novosti, “If there is a 'Yes' vote then obviously Scotland will keep their own football team and the rest of the UK will presumably continue to send individual teams.
“If it's 'No', the matter comes back to the table and FIFA may well get involved," Robertson said. “I remain convinced that there should be one football team for the UK, or for what's left of the UK after the Scottish vote.”
Another Conservative MP, Mark Pritchard, told RIA Novosti, “Any such decision needs to be driven by fans rather than politicians and also the relevant footballing Associations for each of the nations.”
But Adam Morris, spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, dismissed calls for a single UK team.
“This is a personal view from Laurence Robertson which he has held for some time. We disagree with it in the strongest possible terms; there always has been a Scottish national team and always will be, regardless of the constitution,” Morris told RIA Novosti.
The Scottish Conservatives position was backed by the UK Independence Party (Ukip) whose spokesman Jack Duffin said, “UKIP supports the history of having four football teams in the UK. We have four different league set-ups and a football association representing each of them, destroying this makes no sense.”
“After all, in different sports we already have different combinations. In Rugby Northern and Southern Ireland play together almost 100 years after Ireland declared independence. Each sport has its own way of doing things,” Duffin told RIA Novosti.
The pro-independence Scottish National Party declined to comment.