THE head of the British Olympic Association has sparked outrage by saying he would support footballers who sue their home associations if they are told they cannot play in the British team in London 2012.
Lord Colin Moynihan, a former Tory sports minister, said yesterday he would back Welsh Spurs star Gareth Bale if he wanted to take action against the Welsh FA.
But this could have implications for the Scottish and Northern Irish FAs, which along with Wales have told players they cannot represent Britain in the Olympics because of fears it could lead to them losing separate status in football.
But Bale, one of the most highly rated players in Europe, has said he wants to represent Britain partly because Wales has not qualified for a major finals since 1958. Lord Moynihan said: "If Gareth Bale is eligible for selection and if the FA determine he is the best for the team, then he'll be selected - I would expect him to be."
He added: "If they (the Welsh FA] take sanctions against a player, then the player would have recourse to the courts on discrimination grounds."
Lord Moynihan added that he was "sympathetic" to the concerns of the Home Nation FAs about separate representation, but insisted non-English footballers should be allowed to play.
His comments were met with fury from SNP MP Pete Wishart, who said the BOA intervention took the debate to a new level. "I am very disappointed Lord Moynihan has suggested players should take legal action," he said. "A Team GB could seriously undermine the independent status of football in the Home Nations."