United Kingdom national football team
|Head coach||None appointed|
|Most caps||Billy Liddell|
Stanley Matthews (2)
|Top scorer||Wilf Mannion|
Tommy Lawton (2)
| Great Britain 6–1 Rest of Europe|
(Glasgow; 10 May 1947)
| Great Britain 6–1 Rest of Europe|
(Glasgow; 10 May 1947)
| Great Britain 1–4 Rest of Europe|
(Belfast; 13 August 1955)
No United Kingdom national football team exists, as there are separate teams representing each of the nations of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) in international football.
These national teams compete in the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championships and other internationals. A United Kingdom team has played in friendly matches, though never in a full FIFA international and not since 1955. However, the United Kingdom has competed in the association football tournament at the Summer Olympic Games, where it is represented by the Great Britain Olympic football team.
When the world's first football association, The Football Association (FA), was formed in 1863, its geographical remit was not clear: there was no specification of whether it covered just England, all of the United Kingdom, the British Empire or even the entire world. The question was answered when the Scottish Football Association (SFA) was founded in 1873.
The third national football association, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) was founded in 1876 and a fourth, the Irish Football Association (IFA), was founded in 1880. Football therefore developed with separate associations and national teams for each of the countries of the United Kingdom or "Home Nations".
Representative international matches between England and Scotland were played as far back as 1872, and the Home Nations formed the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in 1886 to co-ordinate matches between their teams. FIFA was formed by non-British associations in 1904, and by 1913 the Home Nations were in FIFA and FIFA was on the IFAB. In 1921, around the time of the partition of Ireland, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) split from the IFA and disputed its authority.
In 1923, an agreement between the IFAB and FIFA meant the FAI would represent the Irish Free State and the IFA Northern Ireland; also, FIFA agreed that relationships between the Home Nations would be outside its remit. England and Scotland separately played internationals against various European teams, but the Home Nations withdrew from FIFA in 1928, in a dispute over amateurism, and did not rejoin till 1946, missing the first three World Cups.
England have been the only Home Nation to have any major success internationally, winning the 1966 World Cup. Scotland have qualified for the final tournaments of eight World Cups and two European Championships, but have never progressed beyond the group stage of any international tournament. Northern Ireland have not qualified for a World Cup finals tournament since 1986, and Wales since 1958.
This is sometimes raised as an argument in favour of a single United Kingdom national team: based on statistical analysis. In June 2006, it was estimated that a United Kingdom national team would have had a one-third greater chance of winning the 2006 World Cup, than England did at the tournament's outset. Opponents of the plan argue that the existing footballing identities of the fans of the Home Nations should not be sacrificed simply to stand a better chance of success.
There has been limited support for the creation of a permanent British national team. Although often hypothetical in nature, such a proposal has been put forward by prominent government ministers, including Jack Straw and Tony Banks. In July 2014, after England performed poorly in the 2014 World Cup, Conservative MP Laurence Robertson submitted an early day motion, calling for a United Kingdom Football Team.
Great Britain (1947)
Great Britain (1955)
| The kits worn in the two past matches: |
• Scotland's blue in 1947.
• Northern Ireland's green in 1955.
Despite this, the Home Nations have previously united to play two friendly internationals against 'Rest of Europe' representative sides. On both occasions, they included all four Home Nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (despite Northern Ireland's participation, both matches were played under the name of 'Great Britain').
- 10 May 1947; Hampden Park, Glasgow: Great Britain 6–1 Rest of Europe
- 13 August 1955; Windsor Park, Belfast: Great Britain 1–4 Rest of Europe
1947: the Match of the Century
The 1947 game, dubbed the 'Match of the Century', was played to celebrate the return of the Home Nations to FIFA, which they had left in 1920. For the match, played at Scotland's Hampden Park in front of 135,000 spectators, the Great Britain side wore a navy blue strip in honour of the host association. The gate receipts, totalling £35,000, helped boost the finances of FIFA, which had been damaged by the lack of competition during World War II. On that occasion, the Great Britain team consisted of:
- Frank Swift (England), George Hardwick (England), Billy Hughes (Wales), Archie Macaulay (Scotland), Jackie Vernon (Ireland), Ron Burgess (Wales), Stanley Matthews (England), Wilf Mannion (England), Tommy Lawton (England), Billy Steel (Scotland), Billy Liddell (Scotland).
1955: Irish FA's anniversary
The 1955 game was played to celebrate the Irish Football Association's seventy-fifth anniversary. For this reason, the match was held at Belfast's Windsor Park, and the British team took to the field wearing Northern Ireland's green strip. The Great Britain team fielded comprised:
- Jack Kelsey (Wales), Peter Sillett (England), Joe McDonald (Scotland), Danny Blanchflower (Northern Ireland), John Charles (Wales), Bertie Peacock (Northern Ireland), Stanley Matthews (England), Bobby Johnstone (Scotland), Roy Bentley (England), Jimmy McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Billy Liddell (Scotland).
Two other games were played between Wales and a team representing the rest of the United Kingdom, with players from England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The first match, in 1951, commemorated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Football Association of Wales. The second match, in 1969, commemorated the investiture of the Prince of Wales. In both cases, the England, Scotland and Northern Ireland select team played under the name of 'Rest of the United Kingdom'.
- 3 December 1951; Ninian Park, Cardiff: Wales 3–2 Rest of the United Kingdom
- 21 July 1969; Ninian Park, Cardiff: Wales 0–1 Rest of the United Kingdom
There was also a match played at Wembley in 1973 to commemorate the entry of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark into the European Economic Community. This match, called "The Three" v "The Six", involved a select team from those three countries playing against a selection of players from the original six members of the EEC: West Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and Italy.
Ten of the thirteen players used by "The Three" were from the United Kingdom, with only Johnny Giles and two Danish players representing the other two countries. Henning Jensen and Colin Stein scored as The Three won 2–0.
A Great British team lined up against another Rest of Europe XI in 1965 for Stanley Matthews' testimonial. Europe won 6–4. A Scotland XI team played a Rest of Great Britain team in a testimonial match for Alan Mullery; Scotland were defeated 3–2 at Craven Cottage on 22 March 1976.
From the 1904 Summer Olympics to the 1972 Summer Olympics, and again for the 2012 Summer Olympics, the UK has competed in either the Olympic football tournament or its qualifying competition. During the first tournament, played as a demonstration sport at the 1900 Summer Olympics but retrospectively accredited by the IOC, Upton Park F.C. represented the UK and won gold. Following this Great Britain won gold medals at the 1908 and 1912 Games.
All 'Great Britain' Olympic football teams were organised by The Football Association (FA) with the acquiescence of the other Home Nations' football associations, and after the FA scrapped the distinction between professional and amateur players in 1974, no more British Olympic teams were entered.
Although professional players were allowed into the Olympics from 1992, no British teams were entered because the individual home nations, rather than a unified team, participated in the qualifying competition.
The 2012 Summer Olympics were hosted by London, which meant that Great Britain qualified as right of being host nation. After much discussion between the Home Nations and opposition from the Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh associations, men's and women's teams organised by the (English) FA were entered to the 2012 Olympics.
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