Celtic v Rangers Belfast friendly proposal to mark Good Friday Agreement unearthed in unseen government papers

Recently released government papers have revealed that a proposal was made for Celtic and Rangers to meet in a friendly in Belfast to promote the Good Friday Agreement referendum in 1998.

A letter written by former No.10 adviser Alastair Campbell – titled ‘Rangers v Celtic, An Idea’ and addressed to Primer Minister Tony Blair, Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam and Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar – suggested the teams should wear their rival’s kits to send out a "powerful message" of unity.

In the document, dated April 12, 1998, Mr Campbell intimated that the match could be used as a means of “raising publicity for the campaign,” and that he could approach Rangers through Sir Alex Ferguson and utilise his “direct in” at Celtic to set the wheels in motion.

In reference to swapping shirts, Mr Campbell admitted "one or two of the Rangers players to my certain knowledge would have a difficulty with this".

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The proposal was made during the season when Wim Jansen’s Celtic won the Scottish Premier League title to deny Rangers an unprecedented 10-in-a-row.

There is no record of any further correspondence and the match never took place.

Rangers' Alex Clelland avoids the challenge of Celtic's Jackie McNamara during an Old Firm meeting in January 1998, a few months before the proposal to stage a friendly in Belfast to mark the Good Friday Agreement. Pic: Stu Forster /Allsport
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