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England Safe - For Now!

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 19/12/2002

IN a surprise turnabout Sepp Blatter, Fifa's president, personally guaranteed the future of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as separate teams after FIFA considered a change that could have reduced them to a single United Kingdom side.

Blatter, who previously appeared in favour of a UK team changed his mind quickly when the opposition strength including the six representatives of UEFA, came out fighting and gained the support of the three South American delegates.

By the end of the meeting, Blatter was guaranteeing the long-term future of the UK four countries arrangement and said: "Further discussion of this issue is taboo. It is not to be touched - and it will not be touched. The position of the four British associations based on the contract drawn up in 1946 should be respected and maintained."

There can be no doubt that Blatter considered the political implications of his stance and decided it was more trouble than it was worth. He has long been the voice of those who wanted to see the UK as one country competing in international competitions.

Reports of the meeting indicate that, as expected, the developing nations including Africa, supported the move as they are bitterly opposed to the UK four country representation in the world game.

Although the UK has won this round, it is not the end. As more nations join FIFA they may well support the move to one nation and oppose the special UK arrangement.

But for now status quo exists and it may be some time before the matter is raised again, but be assured.... it will be.

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