Former No10 adviser proposed one-off Old Firm friendly clash in Belfast ‘with teams wearing each other’s jerseys’

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Alistair Campbell, the then Downing Street press secretary, suggested that both clubs ‘swap strips’ in Northern Ireland but his idea failed to materialise.

A proposal was raised in Downing Street by a former No10 adviser for Celtic and Rangers to take part in a one-off friendly clash in Belfast to publicise the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, it has been revealed.

Alistair Campbell suggested an idea that saw both Old Firm clubs wear each others strips and play a special match in Northern Ireland to send out a “very powerful message” of unity, according to newly released cabinet papers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A letter titled: “Rangers v Celtic, An Idea” was addressed to Prime Minister Tony Blair Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam and Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar in April 1998.

In the paper, Mr Campbell, a lifelong Burnley supporter, claimed he had a “direct in” with Celtic and that Sir Alex Ferguson could approach Rangers on his behalf to try and get the match arranged.

When addressing the issue of swapping of jerseys, Mr Campbell admitted “one or two of the Rangers players to my certain knowledge would have a difficult with this”.

There is no record of anyone responding to Mr Campbell or if there was any further dialogue on pursuing the idea.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The referendum on the Good Friday Agreement was held on May 22, 1998.

Both Glasgow giants have a strong Irish following with many supporters travelling over to attend matches at Celtic Park and Ibrox on a weekly basis.

Rangers, who were managed by Walter Smith at the time, missed out on achieving ten-in-a-row that year as Wim Jansen led the Hoops to the title during his only season in charge.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.