THE DEVELOPMENT of women’s football has been held back by ‘petty nationalism’, say the Welsh Conservatives.
Football Associations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland blocked the entry of a Team GB to the women’s football competition this year, in a huge blow to the development of the game.
Welsh Conservative Leader, Andrew RT Davies, said moves to block entry were ‘unforgivable’ and said they ‘must never happen again’.
His colleague, Russell George AM, the Shadow Sports Secretary, said the entry of a women’s team could have inspired a new generation of girls to take up the sport.
Both have called for talks to establish agreement for a Team GB football team, competing only in future Olympic Games.
FIFA have previously given firm assurances that the status of individual nations would not be affected by such a move.
Andrew RT Davies said: “Rio 2016 was an incredible opportunity to promote women’s football on the biggest stage, and petty nationalism held back the development of the game. It’s unforgivable and must never happen again.
“We’ve had repeated assurances that the autonomy of our national teams won’t be affected, and yet we find ourselves back here once again.
“Is there a single person out there who would argue that the women’s game across the UK is in such rude health that we can afford to pass up this kind of chance to build momentum, or to develop the grassroots and increase the tournament experience of our best players?
“A packed stadium watched Sweden knock the hosts out this week, with millions more watching at home, and I couldn’t help but imagine what might have been.
“I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that the absence of a Great Britain women’s football team at the Olympics has been a devastating blow for the game.”
Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Sport, Russell George, said: “Unlike men’s football, the Olympic Games is on a par with the World Cup for the women’s game and attracts huge interest across the globe.
“This was a fantastic opportunity to build on the development of the sport here in Wales, with a British team to inspire a new generation of girls to get involved.
“Players like Jess Fishlock have been deprived of an opportunity to get major international experience, and to represent Team GB in the way that so many other Welsh sports stars do at the Olympics.”