Match of the ‘Nay’ Pro-Union camp lines up referendum football friendly

Plans have been drawn up for the ‘Better Together Cup’ in the lead up to the Scottish referendum.

A senior Labour strategist has submitted a proposal to the group campaigning against independence for a game between two teams of union supporting legends.

It would see them compete for the Better Together Cup. However, the plan is to have a team of Scottish ex-pros compete against a team of players from the rest of the UK.

It’s believed Better Together chief Blair McDougall has studied the proposal. If the game goes ahead organisers hope to tempt big names such as Alex McLeish and Terry Butcher out of retirement to captain the two sides.

Former Scotland manager McLeish has urged Scots to vote no in September’s referendum while Hibs boss Butcher, who amassed 77 caps for England, has heavily hinted that he is in favour of the union.

Sir Alex Ferguson has helped fund the Better Together campaign. Organisers would like him to manage one of the teams. Former Celtic manager and Northern Ireland international Martin O’Neill has been floated as a candidate to manage the Rest of UK team, though his views on the independence debate are not known, nor if his current role as manager of the Republic of Ireland’s football team would allow him to take up the position.

It wouldn’t be the first time football has been used in the independence debate.

In the run up to the 2007 Holyrood elections an advert urging voters to reject the SNP’s separatist agenda named 15 famous players as supporters of the union.

If the Better Together Cup goes ahead, organisers will hope to sign up some of those names including Scottish internationals Graeme Souness, Gary McAllister and Ally McCoist.

A spokesman for Scotland supporters welcomed the chance to see famous names pull on their boots again but queried the thinking behind the idea.

Hamish Husband, of the West of Scotland Tartan Army, said: “Football is the wrong analogy because we are already independent in terms of football and have been since the Scottish FA was set up in 1873.

“This might be a bit of fun but it’s an irrelevance really.”

And he joked: “Perhaps this is the first step towards fielding a Team GB at future World Cups.”

No Scots turned out for Team GB at the London Olympics in the men’s football competition for fear of jeopardising the future of Scotland as a separate team.

Scots Kim Little and Ifeoma Dieke played for the women’s side but Little refused to sing God Save The Queen as she lined up for the hosts before their first tie of the competition.

It’s hoped the Better Together cup would not just raise awareness in the run up to the September 18 vote but that ticket sales could also raise funds for service personnel charities.

The Labour stategist behind the idea said: “You could sell 50,000 tickets for a game like this. It would be massive and could raise an awful lot of money along the way.”

Better Together are believed to be wary of anything that could be seen to pitch Scotland against England. A spokesman said: “This is an interesting idea.”

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