Sir Jim Ratcliffe attended the memorial service today at Old Trafford to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster.
The tragedy, which occurred on 6th February 1958 at Munich Airport, claimed the lives of 23 people, including eight members of the legendary ‘Busby Babes’ and three staff members. Manchester United describes it as the “darkest day” in the club’s history.
“The eight players who perished were Geoff Bent (aged 25), Roger Byrne (28), Eddie Colman (21), Duncan Edwards (21), Mark Jones (24), David Pegg (22), Tommy Taylor (26) and Liam Whelan (22). Edwards, considered by many to be the finest player of his generation, died 15 days after the accident.
“The three club officials who were killed were secretary Walter Crickmer, trainer Tom Curry and coach Bert Whalley. Eight journalists died – Alf Clarke, Donny Davies, George Follows, Tom Jackson, Archie Ledbrooke, Henry Rose, Eric Thompson and former Manchester City goalkeeper Frank Swift.
“Aircraft captain Ken Rayment, fellow crew member Tom Cable, travel agent Bela Miklos and supporter Willie Satinoff, a friend of United manager Sir Matt Busby, were also victims of the terrible tragedy.”
When United played Bayern Munich earlier in the season, the club held a special service at the Manchesterplatz – a memorial stone dedicated those who lost their lives in the accident.
The German club donated a “significant financial contribution” towards its creation and subsequent maintenance, after it was unveiled in 2004. Bayern have also reserved a portion of their club museum to an exhibition about the tragedy.
A ceremony took place at this site in Munich today. Mike Phelan led the delegation representing the club and also laid a wreath at Franz Beckenbauer’s graveside earlier in the day.
The memorial service held today at Old Trafford was attended by Erik ten Hag, accompanied by Bruno Fernandes. Marc Skinner and Katie Zelem – manager and captain of the women’s team respectively – were also present.
Sir Alex Ferguson attended; as did Paddy Crerand and Brian Kidd, two members of the team that lifted the European Cup in 1968 with Sir Matt Busy as manager. This win came ten years after the disaster and was an important moment in the collective healing process at United.
The club’s new co-owner, Ratcliffe, was also present, accompanied by his right-hand man, Sir Dave Brailsford. It marks the first time the INEOS owner has taken part in the poignant ceremony since his minority stake ownership bid was accepted by the Glazer family in December.
— Simon Peach (@SimonPeach) February 6, 2024
Ratcliffe’s attendance speaks to his firm intention to be an active presence as a co-owner at Old Trafford. It also paints him in direct contrast to his fellow American co-owners, whose absence was as expected as it was disrespectful.
The Glazers failed to attend the service in 2008 and 2018, marking the fifty and sixty year anniversaries of the tragedy. This absence encapsulates their relationship with the club they purport to run.
In addition, late father Malcolm Glazer sparked outrage in 2005 when he made a fresh bid to buy the club on the 47th anniversary, showing what many fans felt was a disrespect and disregard for the occasion.
In the first few months of his time as United’s new owner, Ratcliffe has a concerted effort – through actions and words – to illustrate he will not operate in a similar manner. His attendance at such an important moment in the emotional fabric of the club evidences this.
Today’s service was led by Reverend John Boyers, a former chaplain of the club. It included a selection of poems, songs, and reading before a beautifully observed two-minute silence was held at 3:04pm – the exact time of the crash 66 years ago today.
Rest in peace to every person who lost their life on that fateful day.