The devastating ‘Brexit’ of Team GB Women’s Football from the Rio Olympics

fara williams


With England’s men’s team crashing out to minnows Iceland this time last week in the European Championships, maybe having no Team GB Men’s football team in Rio later this summer may have been a blessing in disguise. However, it is a year to the day (4th July) when Fara Williams’ penalty for England’s Lionesses in extra-time brought them the bronze medal against female footballing superpower, Germany.


So what impact does no Team GB Women’s Football have at this year’s Rio Olympics?


England’s historic third place would have secured an automatic qualification to this year’s Olympics.  Even if just England wanted to play under the Great Britain name, this would have to be done with all the other nations agreeing to it. Just to add further fuel to the fire, there was a knockout competition to decide who would take up that remaining place. Sweden took the coveted spot, when they exited the World Cup much earlier, in the Round of 16.


With many of the home nation teams also having recruits who play in the WSL, this could be speculated to help rather than hinder team cohesion. Having a professional league which hosts a majority of home-grown talent has to be an advantage when coming into a competition. Moreover, having stars who play in America such as Kim Little (Scotland & Seattle Reign) and Jess Fishlock (Wales & Seattle Reign), there could be an argument Team GB could have gone even further than bronze. And therefore go even further in the nation’s hearts. Whilst it is a shame for the successful Lionesses, it also means it denies those who have had limited major tournament experience. National teams argued that their respective football associations would suffer. Instead the suffering is being transferred to coaches and players alike.


We have to remember that just four years ago, Wembley was filled with over 70,000 people as Great Britain for the first time entered a women’s football team. They triumphed that day over this year’s Olympic hosts Brazil 1-0. That has arguably been a springboard ever since, with girls and women inspired across the country to get involved in all areas of football.


womens GB football team


The Women’s Super League, the professional league in England, is now in its fifth season. Crowds are slowly building, and with two very competitive and unpredictable leagues, one would think sense would prevail. It is very different for their male counterparts, with the vast majority of players having to be Under-23. With men having a much larger, obvious media presence, it is much more imperative women’s football and their respective authorities take all the opportunities that come their way.


For those coaching, it could have been an extra opportunity to get experience on a larger stage, to try their luck at mixing different players from different nations, and showcasing to the world what Great Britain women’s football still has to offer. It gives rise to the new players coming through and those nearly at the end of their careers a chance for more silverware, and in terms of international teams. The more frequent this happens, the more team spirit amongst the players and those that they work with, so that the Olympics becomes a permanent fixture in the women’s football calendar for British girls. Personally, what inspired me as a coach was just how proud Mark Sampson was of his team and their progress in the World Cup last year. Whilst there are plenty of female coaches on show at this year’s Olympics to look at, for me nothing can quite compete with dissecting your own nation’s performances on the world stage.


There are reports that there will be a women’s team in 2020 in Tokyo but is that not 4 years too late? The women who inspired a nation, will now be sat from home watching the world’s best, thinking that could have been them. In what is arguably one of the football capitals of the world, Britain’s female footballing elite will sadly be absent.



emilyBio: Emily Hassall is an English Durham University (UK) History Student as well as a football / soccer player who has played left wing for 13 years.  Emily has been a Level 1 coach for the last 4 seasons and helped build a girls setup at Woodkirk Valley FC, a club in Leeds (UK).  It started with just 8 girls and now has over 50 across four age groups!  Emily has also been a referee for 5 seasons, she is an avid Manchester United fan and a keen watcher of all things women’s football.



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