London Update -- Gordon Brown Wants Alex Ferguson as Football Manager

(ATR) U.K. prime minster has approached Manchester United manager to lead potential British Olympic football team.

SOUTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 04:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is tackled Chris Perry of Southampton during the FA Cup Sponsored by E.on 3rd Round  match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's Stadium on January 4, 2009 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Wayne Rooney;Chris Perry
SOUTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 04: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is tackled Chris Perry of Southampton during the FA Cup Sponsored by E.on 3rd Round match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's Stadium on January 4, 2009 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Wayne Rooney;Chris Perry

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is keen to see a British soccer team compete in the Olympics for the first time in 40 years. (Getty Images) Prime Minister Gordon Brown has stepped into the row between Britain’s four national football associations to insist that the host nation must field united soccer teams at the 2012 London Games.

In a round of new year interviews given at the weekend, Scotsman Brown restated his enthusiasm for the Olympics and said that were Scotland to block Britain’s participation in the soccer tournament, it “would be very bad.”

So keen is Brown to see a British soccer team compete in the Olympics for the first time in 40 years, he has already approached Alex Ferguson – the Scot who manages Manchester United, the European Cup-holder and world champion club – about coaching the 2012 British Olympic team. “He’s very interested,” Brown said.

The Olympic soccer dispute crystallizes one of the political dilemmas facing Brown. His ruling Labour party owes its majority in the U.K. Parliament to its many MPs with constituencies in Scotland.

Yet, through its policy of devolution, it has ceded powers to a Scottish government in Edinburgh which is now controlled by Nationalists who support the Scottish FA’s policy of refusing to engage with a British Olympic team for fear that it would jeopardize their separate participation at World Cups and European championships.

Senior sporting figures are suggesting that the Scottish campaign against Olympic participation may actually hasten the enforced unification of Britain’s four home national associations. “All they have achieved is to annoy both FIFA and the IOC,” one source said.

Brown sees a FIFA resolution, passed before Christmas, guaranteeing the separate status of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as important towards securing their involvement at the 2012 Games.

“What we need to do is reassure the Scots, Welsh and Northern Ireland FAs that it’ll not affect their participation in other tournaments,” he said. “I’m concerned enough that I’ve spoken to Sepp Blatter. I think the resolution passed by FIFA is the start to reassure them.”

Olympic Tickets for a Ride

London 2012 organizers are discussing ways of making tickets for Olympic and Paralympic events work as “swipe” electronic passes for buses and Tube trains at Games time.

London Mayor Boris Johnson revealed the move in his last, pre-Christmas transport questions. Millions of London commuters already use the pre-payment Oyster cards on the public transport system every day.

“Transport for London (TfL) is firmly of the view that any contactless solution for the Olympics will need to be Oyster-based,” Johnson said. “The 2012 Olympics will require the production of several million tickets, and their distribution worldwide, probably from 2010 onwards. TfL is currently discussing options with LOCOG.”

Cost-Cutting Report Cost $300,000

The KPMG report, commissioned to investigate whether costs could be cut on four of London’s 2012 temporary venues but which failed to identify a penny in savings, cost $300,000. It was commissioned by Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and published before Christmas.

Andrew Gilligan, a leading 2012 observer, criticized the KPMG report, saying: “I’ve read more detailed analyses on the back of the average cornflakes packet.”

The consultants recommended no changes to London’s equestrian venue in Greenwich Park or for a basketball hall in the Olympic Park, while a decision on the shooting venue in Woolwich is awaited.

The work on the report takes KPMG’s consultancy income from the 2012 Games organizers to more than $2.5 million.

“The cost of this gravy train is getting astronomical and undermines the credibility of the project and public confidence,” said Don Foster MP, the Liberal Democrats’ Olympics spokesman. “Surely it is time that we allowed the people who are hired to do this job to get on with it rather than hiring yet more consultants to look over their shoulder?”

Sport England Appointment Due

Sport England – one of the U.K. government’s sports funding agencies – last month announced $670 million worth of grants to national governing bodies aimed at boosting sporting participation by 1 million people by 2012. Keith Mills, the former chairman of London 2012’s bid committee, turned down the opportunity to chair Sport England. (Getty Images)The funding is separate from U.K. Sport’s elite funding packages for Olympic preparations.

But Sport England remains without a chairman, more than a year after the resignation of Derek Mapp, and despite the Department of Culture, Media and Sport twice advertising the post.

Keith Mills, the former chairman of London 2012’s bid committee, has already turned down the appointment, with DCMS saying that it will interview its high-quality short list this month.

England’s 2018 World Cup Bid Denied Government Money

Mills has instead opted for a role on the board of England’s bid to stage the 2018 FIFA World Cup. But despite PM Gordon Brown’s ambition for a “Golden Decade” of sport in Britain, England’s bid has yet to receive any Exchequer funding – $7.5 million of an overall $14 million bid budget was expected to come from government.

The Treasury seems most unlikely to provide a cash injection for the World Cup bid in the present economic environment while the English Football Association continues to attract multi-million pound television deals.

Briefs…

…London’s whitewater canoe course will cost $45 million, twice the original budget, according to local media reports. Construction at the venue, at Broxbourne in north London, is due to begin in May.

... Britain has pulled out of water polo’s 2009 World League and cancelled all international fixtures because of the continuing uncertainty over the sport’s funding through to 2012. Water polo, together with volleyball and handball, have to wait until Jan. 29 to discover how much they will receive from U.K. Sport’s remaining $17 million of performance funds.

Leading water polo officials have approached Prince William – who played the game when at university – to appeal for help ahead of an anticipated 70 percent funding cut for the sport. Although Great Britain’s men won the Olympic water polo gold medals in 1900, 1908, 1912 and 1920, they have made the top eight at the Olympics only once since 1936.

…A $1.45 million project to enlarge and enhance Dorney Lake, the 2012 Olympic rowing venue, has been approved. Improvements include widening of the eight-lane Thames-side lake near Eton and a new finishing line bridge. Dorney hosted the 2006 rowing world championships.

Written by Steven Downes

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