Misplaced optimism over Team GB

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Football News

Stuart Pearce is certainly optimistic over the support that will afforded to Great Britain's football team at the Olympic Games in London this summer, and believes excitement will be 'off the Richter scale' when the tournament begins.

Not since 1972 has a football team competed under the Union Flag, but London 2012 will herald the return of Team GB and, perhaps, purely as a one off.

England under-21 boss Pearce has been tasked with assembling a side made up from the four home nations, but such a prospect has been met with plenty of opposition.

Pearce, however, believes the buzz created by the competition will be comparable to that of the European Championships in 1996 - the last time a high-profile football tournament was hosted on these shores.

"Euro 96 was one of the most exciting experiences I ever had," said Pearce, speaking at the Soccerex Forum in Manchester.

"Playing any tournament on home soil, the interest goes off the Richter scale. I am sure the players will want to be part of it."

He added: "The more meetings I have been to with the BOA [British Olympic Association], the more excited I am," Pearce said. "I understand that one or two of the associations are a little bit nervous but Fifa have waylaid that."

It is the job of Pearce to both drum up interest in Team GB as well as to create a side capable of securing the gold medal, but there is a sense that his optimism is misplaced.

A team representative of Great Britain has been tarnished from the outset, with the Football Associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all opposing the idea of competing under one umbrella at the Olympics.

Even though, as Pearce has alluded to, Fifa have assured the national associations that their long-term future is not at risk, there are still fears harboured that a GB football team will eventually become the norm in regular competition.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are, then, loath to allow their players to compete at the Olympics, while SFA chief executive Stewart Regan has claimed those who to represent GB would face a backlash from supporters.

The English FA, meanwhile, appear to be the only advocates of plans, although the team will perhaps be devoid of the most talented young players England have to offer, with Euro 2012 also to be played this summer.

And, with the Premier League season scheduled to begin only a week after the climax of the tournament, Pearce could find his pool of players streamlined even further.

The latter is clearly having an affect on the enthusiasm of supporters, with the prospect of a GB 'all stars' side one that appears to be increasingly unlikely, with a number of top managers categorically denying they will allow their players to compete.

This can be translated to the sale of tickets for the tournament, with football remaining the only sport at London 2012 for which the full allocation of tickets has yet to be sold.

Nearly 1.5 million tickets have yet to purchased across the venues, with Hampden Park, the Millennium Stadium, Old Trafford, the Ricoh Arena, St James' Park and Wembley all set to host matches.

This is, of course, in part due to the fact the draw for the competition has yet to be made, but also suggests a disinterest in a sport not necessarily representative of the ideals of the Olympic Games.

Fans in Britain are lucky enough to have the opportunity to watch some of the world's best players compete on a weekly basis in the domestic leagues, and the prospect of watching a weak GB side stutter through a seemingly meaningless tournament has a relatively low appeal.

Although Pearce is confident his team will have the full support of the public when the Games begin, it is unlikely the representative nations will be as forthcoming as he would hope.

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