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12 of 017 Saulius Mikoliunas 8 L SPL H

George Burley gives backing to four nations tournament

Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland are to compete in a “4 Associations Tournament” in Dublin in 2011. Although England is not participating, the FA stressed that it had not been ignored but was simply not interested. The tournament, which so far appears to be a one-off, will be on a league basis with the four nations competing for the “4 Associations Cup”. The first two matches will be played in February 2011, with four further matches in May.

“All these fixtures are never easy to fit into the calendar but these dates suit everyone at the minute,” George Burley, the Scotland manager, said. “I'm sure we'll look at it and see how it goes and if it's a success for everyone then we can try and carry it on.”

It will be the first senior international tournament to be hosted by Ireland. “The atmosphere around Dublin will be tremendous,” John Delaney, the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, said. “The tournament will be a fitting celebration for our fantastic new stadium [the rebuilt Lansdowne Road], which is on schedule for completion in 2010.”

The tournament represents the effective re-establishment of the British Home Championship which was shelved in 1984, on the 100th anniversary of its inception, albeit with Ireland taking the place of England. There has been frequent speculation that it might be revived despite little or no agreement by the Home nations.

George Peat, president of the SFA, believes the tournament will capture the imagination of fans. “I am absolutely delighted that the ‘4 Association Tournament' has become a reality,” he said. “When we sat down to discuss the plans, we were all excited about putting on a tournament that would celebrate the game and give our fans a great experience.”

The FA said England was not interested in joining a tournament. “As there are limited international dates for opportunities to play nations from outside Europe, we like to use several dates to play teams from South America, Africa and Asia. Otherwise the only time we would get to play such countries is restricted to World Cups,” Mark Whittle, an FA spokesman, said.

The timing of the tournament, just before the 2012 London Olympics, could be significant, highlighting the fact that the associations do not want to enter a British team at the Games.

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