Belfast United pitched by Tony Blair before Wimbledon's move to Milton Keynes

Tony BlairTony Blair
Tony Blair
Before Milton Keynes and Dublin, another city was suggested as a new home for Wimbledon FC

Details have emerged of a plan backed by former Prime Minister Tony Blair to encourage the move of Wimbledon FC to Belfast several years before the club would relocate to Milton Keynes.

Plans to uproot the club and move it to Dublin were rumoured to be in the offing in 1998, but notes leaked to the Belfast Telegraph have revealed the Northern Ireland capital was also pitched by the PM as a new home for the Wombles as early as 1997, as well as a name change to Belfast United.

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Wimbledon FC were relegated from the Premier League in 2000, and by 2002, had been given approval by the FA to move to Milton Keynes, changing their name to MK Dons in 2004.

The move to the Republic of Ireland was voted against by the League of Ireland clubs at the time, only after the potential Belfast move had also come up against similar backlash from the Northern Irish clubs.

In a memo signed by Mr Blair, it stated "it would be excellent if Wimbledon were to move to Belfast and we should encourage this as much as possible." Another memo a few months later revealed the local clubs "continue to resist the idea strongly."

Jim Boyce, former president of the Irish Football Association, told Radio 5 Live: "It would have killed local football and the people who put so much work into local football at the time, and the spectators of local football clubs, they just have obviously no interest in this whatsoever.

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"I think it was quite honestly a publicity stunt. As was proved, as I said at the time when this was discussed that Wimbledon were in the Premier League. Yes, to many people who weren't local football fans of course it would have been nice to see Manchester United, Liverpool and Spurs possibly coming to Northern Ireland.

"To me, honestly, it was a total pie in the sky."