Scarf for sale. Useful for strangling the media...

My phone didn’t stop on Monday with the media wanting quotes about the Manchester United ‘fans’ putting their Munich memorial scarves on eBay. They called because for the last 18 years I’ve edited the United We Stand fanzine.

United put 73,000 red-and-white scarves, plus 3,000 blue-and-white ones on the seats inside Old Trafford before Sunday’s derby. It was a well-intentioned gesture and the stadium looked magnificent during the perfectly observed minute’s silence – the highlight of the day for most Reds given the insipid performance which followed.

Those around me, sitting just 30 metres from the City fans, applauded them for being so respectful. There had been fears, not without foundation given the proliferation of Munich songs in sections of City’s fan base, that they would disrupt the silence.

Radio 5 were first on the story following complaints from City fans that ‘United fans were trying to profit from human tragedy’. They had a point. I was disappointed, but before speaking I rang around a variety of Reds to canvass opinion. All were unanimous – these people were profiteering fools unrepresentative of the United fans they knew, none of whom would consider selling the scarves.

There was a strong case for defending the vast majority of United fans so I agreed to speak, but there are dangers in doing radio- not least your mates trying to ring your house phone at the same time in attempts at sabotage. 

Someone is always going to shoot the minute you stick your head about the parapet with a soundbite. Most are freaks or geeks – one weird fish once had a go after a piece on TalkSport following a United v Celtic pre-season game in Seattle.

“You said on the radio that there were as many Celtic fans as Reds in the ground – that’s well out of order,” he spluttered angrily, almost a year after the event.

“Why? There were. I was there and spoke to the organisers.”

“Well my mate said there were miles more Reds and he watched on television,” he replied.

Criticism goes with the territory, but it's not as much of a problem as media organisations who like to introduce you as a ‘spokesman for the fans’ when you're not. They're so blissfully ignorant of the nuances of fan culture that they'll happily send a film crew to Old Trafford to capture the opinions of the sort of people who hang around empty football stadiums on a non-match day. I’m sure all the TV types seek out clueless tourists to reinforce the misguided stereotype that all United fans are from nowhere near Manchester.

I offer my own opinion, hopefully an informed one given the amount of feedback we get from match going fans. I put the same message out to all who rang – including the four calls from different departments of the Sky empire.

They have some sharp journalists and others who aren’t – such as the presenter from Sky Sports News who had swallowed the story that the going rate for a £1 scarf was £5,200 on eBay, unaware that these bids were bogus and aimed at scuppering sales.

Another, looking to make a dig at United fans, asked: “Isn’t this the same as Roy Keane’s comments about the prawn sandwiches?”

“No,” I replied. Now soundbite that.

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