Despite Celtic protests, the pressure for Great Britain to field a football team at the London 2012 Olympics grows inexorably. World governing body FIFA are warming up on the touchline to wave the idea through to the delight of the English Football Association and FIFA's own president, Sepp Blatter:
A source close to FIFA told PA Sport: "The executive committee are certain to rule in favour of a Great Britain team - but only for London 2012, not beyond."
However, while Blatter and successive English FA chiefs have gone hand in hand ever further towards this goal since we won the Olympic bid, bystanders are almost deafened by the sound of the Welsh, Northern Irish and, particularly, Scottish associations running as fast as possible in the opposite direction. David Will, honorary vice-president of the SFA and recently retired FIFA vice-president, is leading the charge:
This does not make one whit of difference to the stance of the three associations who are opposed to a Great Britain team in the Olympics. They are not obliged to take part, no matter what form of approval Fifa give to it, and I am sure they won't take part. I remain completely supportive of the SFA's stance on this. It would set a very dangerous precedent to allow Scottish players to be involved in a GB football team at the Olympics.
Will and others are worried that a British Olympic side would be the beginning of the end for the four home associations fielding separate teams in the world cup and European championship. He's hardly paranoid as the influential Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago has long questioned the historical anomaly that grants Britain not only four separate teams, but also four out of eight representatives on the board that makes football's rules.
Blatter, presumably perturbed at the idea of an Olympic football event devoid of its hosts altogether, has gone so far as to say that an all English team might be best, though Will says such a team requires no approval from FIFA:
To my mind, FIFA would only have a decision to make on this issue if all four British associations approached them for permission to field a unified team at the Olympics. That is the only scenario where they would be required to formally approve a team. But that is not the case, because England are the only association interested.
With England increasingly isolated, chief executive Brian Barwick finds himself with probably the biggest decision for an English football administrator to make since Sir Stanley Rous thought it not the done thing to campaign actively for re-election to the FIFA presidency in 1974, a tactical choice which let in Brazil's dynamic Joao Havelange and marked the start of the ongoing diminution of the importance of Britain and Europe in the world game. As he prepares to dive into apparently inviting waters Barwick may want to double-check the shark cage provided.
Photo via JasonRogers's Flickr stream.