Plan to maneuver Premier League membership to Belfast uncovered in declassified information

Tony Blair needed to relocate a troubled Premier League group to Northern Ireland within the late Nineteen Nineties, newly declassified paperwork reveal.

The former Prime Minister thought it will be “excellent” if Wimbledon moved to Belfast and was eager to encourage the transfer. A memo dated July 16, 1998, confirmed Mr Blair was eager on the chance, which finally got here to nothing because the facet made a contentious transfer to Milton Keynes as a substitute.

Confidential state papers included a word “following up earlier casual discussions about the opportunity of an English Premier League soccer membership relocating to Belfast”. The doc mentioned such a transfer can be a “significant breakthrough” and a “positive unifying force”.

Memos additionally recommended South London membership Wimbledon FC might change its identify to Belfast United. Weeks after the Good Friday Agreement a Government word recorded that Mr Blair thought it will be “excellent if Wimbledon were to move to Belfast and we should encourage this as much as possible”.

Government paperwork from 1997 recommended {that a} new 40,000 seater stadium could possibly be constructed on Queen’s Island in East Belfast or within the north of the town. But officers famous opposition from present golf equipment within the province, who warned relocating a Premier League membership there might “kill off the game in Northern Ireland”.

TV presenter Eamonn Holmes and three native newspapers “had been active in collecting public support”, the information present. A word from then-chief press secretary Alistair Campbell additionally mentioned Wimbledon proprietor Sam Hamman “had explored the possibility of moving Wimbledon to Dublin, but this seems to have come to naught”.

Wimbledon made a controversial transfer to Milton Keynes in 2002, and the membership was renamed MK Dons.