Fantasy football: Tony Blair reveals obsession with a British league

Written by James Millar on 11 September 2017 in Diary

Devolution anniversary prompts former PM to talk about plan that would see Celtic, Chelsea, Rangers and Newcastle in the same league

Tony Blair has admitted he became 'obsessed' with the idea of British football league while PM.

In an interview to mark the 20th anniversary of the referendum on devolution for Scotland and Wales he said he saw football as key to keeping the United Kingdom together.

The former Labour leader said: "I know it sounds a bit strange but I was for a time quite obsessed with the idea that, for example, for football we should be opening up the English league and the Scottish league and having them together. I always thought we should be looking at ways of making sure that people felt a connection."

He said he was still keen on the idea of a British league.

The revelation may explain Blair's strong support for London hosting the Olympic games in 2012 where Team GB's success was crediting with fostering a pan-UK British pride. However he said he understood that any move to merge the Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish football teams permanently would have been 'a step too far'. 

Blair is a noted Newcastle fan. He apparently claimed to have watched club legend Jackie Milburn play at the team's home ground of St James' Park despite being aged four and living in Australia when Milburn retired. 

During the 2014 independence referendum campaign football was again mooted as a way to foster support for the union with the Better Together cup floated as a stunt that would see Scottish and English legends play a high profile game. 

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also been talking about the devolution anniversary. She used a speech in Edinburgh to call for a cross party consensus in Scotland to win new powers for Holyrood when the UK leaves the EU.

The SNP have raised fears that powers over issues like farming and fishing that are currently held in Brussels will transfer to Westminster upon Brexit rather than being devolved. She praised the "genius principle" built into Labour's devolution process that only those powers explicitly reserved to Westminster are retained in London. But she warned that approach was under threat due to Brexit. She warned: "On the very day that we should be celebrating devolution, we are also being called upon to defend it."

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