LONDON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Britain is planning to mark its return to Olympic soccer after a 40-year absence with a gala double-header featuring both the women’s and men’s teams playing international friendlies at the same venue on the same day next July.
The English FA, which is organising the Olympic teams on behalf of the British Olympic Association (BOA) is looking at staging the matches possibly at Villa Park, as Birmingham is not an Olympic venue city, shortly before the Games begin at the end of that month.
Under IOC rules, the matches have to take place outside London and at a venue not being used for the Olympic tournament, which rules out Old Trafford, Hampden Park or the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
A British men’s team last competed in the Olympic qualifiers as an amateur team for the 1972 Games but did not reach the finals in Munich. The women’s team will be competing for the first time.
The matches would be one of two pre-tournament friendlies for both sides, which are being managed by Stuart Pearce and Hope Powell respectively.
The formation of the Olympic team has been problematic as the football associations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are reluctant to take part fearing the participation of their players could jeopardise their independent status within FIFA.
The preliminary round of the Olympic tournament begins on July 25, two days before the Opening Ceremony, and conclude on Aug. 11. (Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by John O‘Brien)