I didn't really pay that much attention to this story when it appeared on Friday, but there are things about it that have begun to bother me over the last couple of days. Gordon Brown wants Sir Alex Ferguson to manage a UK football team to compete in the 2012 Olympics in London. It has been known for some time that Brown is keen on this idea, but not only is it a fundamentally flawed one, it also serves as a Labour spin operation.
Believe it or not, I would have no problem with lifelong Labour supporter Ferguson managing such a team. He's the most successful British manager in a generation, and his name is assured on the list of all-time greats. But it's a bad idea because it's exactly what the bastards at FIFA and UEFA would like us to do. Sepp Blatter (President of FIFA) and Michel Platini (President of UEFA) are both critics of the current setup, by which England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own Football Associations and national teams. It annoys Blatter because he's a dickhead, and it annoys Platini because it means UK teams get more qualifying slots for European competitions. Therefore, there is a real danger that by going ahead with a UK team at the Olympics, we will harm out barganing position in the future should FIFA or UEFA ever attempt to amalgamate the national FAs. To appear willing to bend on this issue could be fatal.
The other reason I dislike this is because it's Gordon Brown trying to fly his British flag again. We know he hates the English; hospital closures in England but not Scotland; tuition fees for English universities but not Scottish ones. Admittedly this is partly because of the Scottish Parliament having jurisdiction in this area, but Scottish Labour MPs were whipped into voting for tuition fees at English universities. This is yet another plank in his plan to convince us that he's not an English-hating arsehole. Of course the irony of all this is that he can't see how his attempts to appeal to everyone in the UK could end up destroying the century-old structure of our national sport.
And there's another side to this as well; one where Brown gets to dole out freebies to his core vote. With the SNP rising in prominence in Scotland, Labour need to hold most of their seats there to win the next election; especially if the Conservatives squeeze them in England. The BBC article reports that:
"Among suggestions which have been floated to boost public support for the idea include hosting the first match of the tournament at Scotland's national stadium Hampden Park."
So Glasgow could get the first football match in a tournament won by London, and which will largely be paid for by London taxpayers. They get all the perks - increased revenue from tourists, supporters and fans - and don't have to foot the bill. Furthermore, surely offering presents to Scotland, but not Wales, England or Northern Ireland, is just going to make them dislike the plan even more than they already do?