Tony Blair needed to relocate Prem facet to Belfast and construct mega stadium

Sir Tony Blair needed to relocate Wimbledon FC to Belfast in the beginning of his first time period as prime minister.

Previously confidential state papers, which have simply been launched, embody a observe from 1997 – when Blair and Labour got here to energy – about talks over shifting the Dons to Northern Ireland.

At the time, Premier League Wimbledon had been enjoying at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park. They had been compelled to depart their much-loved Plough Lane house in the beginning of the last decade as soccer moved in direction of all-seater stadiums.

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The observe mentioned it might symbolize a “significant breakthrough if Belfast had a football team playing in the English Premier League”. It added that such a transfer “should be able to build up strong cross-community support and provide a positive unifying force in a divided city”.

The transfer was mooted within the 12 months earlier than the Good Friday Agreement, which introduced an finish to 30 years of battle, often called the Troubles. It would have seen Wimbledon doubtlessly renamed Belfast United whereas a 40,000-seater stadium may even have been constructed, with two potential websites even being recognized.

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Tony Blair, pictured with spouse Cherie after coming to energy in 1997, was eager on Wimbledon FC shifting to Northern Ireland

Wimbledon struggled for assist within the Nineteen Nineties after they performed at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park

1988 FA Cup winners Wimbledon struggled for assist within the Nineteen Nineties, with crowds slumping as little as 3,000. In a separate improvement in 1998, then-owner Sam Hammam examined relocating the membership to Dublin, though League of Ireland golf equipment threw out the plan.

Wimbledon, in fact, did transfer out of London after they had been controversially permitted to relocate to Milton Keynes and rebrand as MK Dons. The transfer precipitated outcry throughout soccer and led a gaggle of disgruntled followers to kind AFC Wimbledon, who shot as much as the non-league pyramid, getting so far as League One.

MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon, who’re enjoying again on the membership’s authentic Plough Lane website, are actually rivals in League Two, separated by only one level and one place in seventh and eighth, and there’s no love misplaced between the units of supporters.