Join soccerly to save and share the best soccer stories
Sign up with Facebook
By login in with Facebook you agree on the terms and conditions specified here

According to the article, this would strengthen calls for changes to how world football is run with Scotland, England Northern Ireland and Wales being treated as separate entities in terms of votes at the big tables of FIFA and UEFA.
Who in FIFA will stand up for Scotland if voters reject independence? 
Scotland celebrate but will their side survive a rejection of nationhood?

Soccerly recently examined a report from Mark Hirst of the Russian agency RIA Novosti on the effect of a 'No' vote in the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum which would see the affirmation of Britain being one entity. 

According to the article, this would strengthen calls for changes to how world football is run with Scotland, England Northern Ireland and Wales being treated as separate entities in terms of votes at the big tables of FIFA and UEFA.

An unnamed FIFA source suggested the ruling body would ‘likely review’ the existence of four UK separate sides. This does not necessarily mean that FIFA will attempt to enforce a merger. Neither does it mean that such an attempt will not meet resistance. 

It does almost certainly mean though that the four home nations will have to come up with some compelling arguments for the status quo and they may find it difficult to find allies for their arguments in world soccer.

One man who does know FIFA attitudes to the four home nations is Craig Brown, manager of Scotland from 1993 - 2001. Brown is still Scotland's longest serving manager with 70 matches (32W-20L-18D) in charge. 

He spoke with Hirst for his follow up piece, Former Scotland Football Manager Warns FIFA Set on Having Single UK Team and told him: "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."

Craig Brown is Scotland's longest serving manager

Brown also cited an even better connected source, the late David Will, former President of the SFA who later became a Vice-President of FIFA. 

Will had warned Brown 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,' according to the article. 

Brown added: "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."

With the referendum now just 14 days away, the opinion polls are reporting that the gap between Better Together and the Yes campaign are closing rapidly in favour of a vote for independence. The latest poll shows a No lead of 6% but the feeling is that the Yes side are gaining ground.

"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."
-former scotland manager, craig brown-

So how might the soccer world react to a 'No' vote?

The balance of power in world football has changed dramatically over the years with Europe, the traditional crucible of football, no longer the biggest dog in the yard. The balance has shifted back and forth with the collapse of the USSR, Yugoslavia etc creating new FIFA members; all of which were granted membership  and a vote. 

There is resentment around the world with nations suggesting that things should change – in their favour. At the moment, with the recent addition of Andorra and Gibraltar, Europe can muster 54 votes; Asia 47 and the new powerbase of Africa has 56.

Those arguing the case against the four ‘home nations’ having four votes could point to the prevailing and convoluted situation in other sports. 

Soccer is as much of an anomaly as the norm. 

That Scotland, Northern Ireland. England and Wales are individually represented is by far from universal in sport. They each provide teams for the Commonwealth Games, but just the one for the Olympics. 

In Rugby Union, Scotland, Wales and England have independent teams while Northern Ireland does not, but their players form part of an all Ireland side. Representatives from each country, including the Irish Republic can also be found in the international touring side, the British and Irish Lions.

It is even more complicated when it comes to which ‘anthem’ is played as representing these countries with Scotland the Brave, Flower of Scotland, God Save the Queen, Jerusalem and the Londonderry Air (Danny Boy) all having featured at one time or another for at least one of the countries. 

Wales have always stuck to Land of My Fathers (Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau in Welsh) for all sports and it is always sung in Welsh, even if the singers use English in every other aspect of every day life.

An anthem alone does not make a nation and European smaller nations that have had to endure, fight and in many cases die for independence, such as the Baltic states or Croatia, may well question the representation of nations who are democratically given the chance to vote for nationhood and refuse to take that option. 

Spain, fearing requests from internal regions such as Catalonia and the Basque country, may well relish the chance to deny these regions a national football side unless they have the courage to vote for independence. 

A Catalan representative side has already played some exhibition matches against sides like Nigeria, Tunisia, Honduras, and Argentina, and were until recently coached by Johan Cruyff.

Oriol Rosell (left, then of Sporting Kansas) alongside Sergi Roberto in the jersey of the Catalan international side

Is there a possibility that the Catalan FA will press for full time FIFA status without full independence if Scotland votes 'No' but continues to be individually represented? That may be an example the Spanish FA would welcome a fresh opportunity to stamp on. 

That's just Spain who also have a side representing the Basque country inside their borders.

There are also sides from Quebec, Kosovo, Greenland, Tobago, Crimea, Wallonia, South Tyrol (Italy), Bosnian-Serb Republic, Northern Cyprus, Nagorno-Karabakh and Tibet among many others; all of whom have fielded some type of representative side. Would that sway the minds of football associations from Canada, Serbia, China and the others fearing their regions trying to join FIFA?

France and Italy have separatist concerns on a smaller scale and would be less inclined perhaps to vote the Scots and the Welsh out of existence, but with many of  those others, there is less of a history of goodwill to draw upon.

Away from internal politics, all European nations will see the reduction of eligible countries by three as slightly increasing their chances of qualification for tournaments. Every nation below Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales would rise in the rankings and increase their chance of being placed into a better pot for future UEFA Championships and World Cup draws. Even at home, friends may be hard to find.

In Africa and Asia, there is the possibility of some sympathy from Commonwealth countries but no basis for thinking there may be much backing from elsewhere. There is less deference to the ‘home country’ these days as the influence of the UK has diminished as the emerging economies of the world have developed.

The fact that FIFA do not appear willing to force and merger of the four ‘home nations’ may have something to do with the farce surrounding a Great Britain team in the football competition in the London Olympics. 

This was the first time since 1960 that such a team had been entered. While the British Olympic Association (BOA) were determined to have a team representing the host country, the football associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would have none of it for fear of FIFA taking note and killing three birds with one Olympic stone.

In June 2011, the BOA announced that a "historic agreement" had been reached and that male and female GB teams would include players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That was news to three of the four football associations who knew nothing about any such agreement and immediately denied it. With admirable restraint, the Scottish FA said they were seeking 'clarification' about the announcement in a hasty, almost caustic, tweet. 

Some fast footwork on the part of the English FA allowed them alone to organize the team and pick a coach, in the shape of former England international Stuart Pearce. 

In the end, the English proceeded on their own and persuaded Welsh players Ryan Giggs, Neil Taylor, Joe Allen (who despite being a fluent Welsh speaker was described in a match program as English), Craig Bellamy, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale to play against the wishes of the Football Association of Wales.

Seattle Reign's Scottish forward Kim Little refused to sing God Save the Queen

However that was not the end of the controversy and, not surprisingly, anthems were at its core. The male Team GB lined up at Wembley to God Save the Queen.  A furor erupted in the English press after Bellamy and Giggs refused to sing it. They were not alone.

The women's team, which did include Scots, had played the day before. Scottish striker Kim Little, now with the NWSL Seattle Reign, had also refused to sing what she saw as an English anthem and admitted that was a 'personal choice' made because she was Scottish.

She was slammed by English athletes among them retired javelin thrower and Olympic silver medalist Fatima Whitbread who told the Daily Mail:

"I think it’s a poor show if you are competing under a British flag and you don’t feel proud to be British. It’s fine for you to believe in Scottish independence and to have your own beliefs – there has always been a bit of a rivalry – but if you are competing under a British flag you need to feel British."

Kim Little, of course, had no option to compete for Scotland in the Olympics, a point made by her family who defended her. 

"It’s the national anthem of England, and she is Scottish,’ her grandfather William told the Mail. "It is her decision and I support it 100 per cent. I would have done the same. In my personal view I would like to see a Scotland team at the Olympics."

These are some of the issues that may lie ahead if Scotland votes 'No' and some in FIFA subsequently attempt to act on a long held agenda to reduce the number of British sides competing.  FIFA are wisely keeping their powder dry for the moment and saying nothing publicly.

No-one has yet claimed the existence of an independent soccer side should be any basis for voting one way or another. 

However, this issue, brought into the public eye by Hirst, does indicate that it is not only after a 'Yes' vote that Scotland will find its membership of organisations under review.

More stories