Team GB: Merit in women's team plan, says Wales chief Jonathan Ford

Team GB
The Team GB women's team lost in the quarter finals of the Olympic football tournament at London 2012

Chief executive Jonathan Ford says the Football Association of Wales (FAW) can see merit in a GB women's football team competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Talks are continuing between the English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh Football Associations.

Ford expects a decision 'within six months' with the FAW softening its previous opposition to the plan.

"From a football merit basis, we can see the merits more than we did in the past," Ford told BBC Radio Wales.

Men's and women's sides competed under the GB banner during the 2012 Olympics, but plans for the teams to compete at the 2016 Games were scrapped after opposition from the Irish, Scottish and Welsh FAs.

All three associations had expressed concerns that a GB team could threaten their independent status in world football.

However, Ford says there is now more goodwill to the notion of participation for Wales' women.

"For the women, I think most people would understand that allowing our players, coaches and managers the experience of going to major tournaments, including the Olympic Games, is worthy of consideration," he said.

"I think people are open and are discussing it, but we will see where the conversation takes us."

Men's Team GB side
The men's Team GB squad at the 2012 Olympics included Welsh players Aaron Ramsey, Craig Bellamy, Neil Taylor and Joe Allen. Ryan Giggs - not pictured - also played

'Doesn't galvanise the men'

Ford reiterated that discussions have only concerned the possible involvement of a women's team.

"You have heard that there have been discussions amongst the British associations," he said.

"We met at the Uefa Congress recently and further discussions ensued. We still have a long way to go to be honest and when those discussions are finalised, hopefully we will be back with some news.

"It is with a view to a women's team.

"I think everyone has been very clear that from a men's perspective it is a scratch team, it is a team that is age-capped bar for a few players and that isn't part of the Olympic spirit.

"In terms of the men's football calendar, it really doesn't galvanise the men in quite the same way at the European Championships or the World Cup."

Wales men
Wales' men reached the semi final of the last major tournament they participated in

Assurances required

However, Ford says Wales are determined any participation cannot threaten their future independence as a footballing nation and says no decision will be reached without assurances.

Ford says it is also important all the relevant football associations make their position clear, so they can't be accused of being 'hypocritical.'

"From a men's football perspective we want to play under a Welsh umbrella, nothing has changed on that front," he said.

"In order to qualify for 2020, timing is important, so I would anticipate a decision within the next six months.

"We have got to make sure our messaging is correct and we will make sure discussions are had so we are not seen to be in a bit of a hypocritical position.

Team GB's women at 2012 Olympics
Went out in quarter-finals after 2-0 defeat by Canada (at Coventry City - attendance 28,828)Beat New Zealand 1-0 in opening match - the first event of the 2012 Olympics (24,549 watched in Cardiff)
Topped group with 1-0 win over Brazil before record British women's football crowd of 70,584 at WembleyCoach Hope Powell picked an 18-strong squad, consisting of 16 English and two Scottish players

"There are some assurances we would be seeking, but doing it for the right reasons and football reasons, is the key.

"We don't want to take away from the notion that Welsh teams will be playing for Wales in the future."

Wales boss Chris Coleman has previously said he is not in favour of the idea.

The FA have already stated their support for fielding a women's team, as have British Olympic chiefs.

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