When Man United’s players walk out onto the Old Trafford pitch on Sunday afternoon ready to give their all against Southampton, they will all be wearing black armbands, and the reason why is a heartbreaking one.
As with many other football clubs, the Red Devils work with supporter groups in order to ensure that the fan experience was as good as it could be.
In the lead up to this weekend’s game, the very sad news arrived that, Ian Stirling, an Independent Supporter Liaison Officer for Manchester United Supporters’ Trust and a founding member of the Fans’ Advisory Board, had passed away at the age of just 57.
Tributes came thick and fast across social media:
Saddened & shocked to learn of Ian Stirling’s passing. Devoted knowledgable #MUFC fan. Tireless campaigner for MUST, Singing Section (pre-TRA) etc Brought Reds together, United was his watchword. Genuinely lovely man, warm kind, always smiling. My thoughts are with his family?? pic.twitter.com/4VBcdyQiu9
— Pete Molyneux (@PeteMolyneux) March 11, 2023
Fitting that United’s players will wear black armbands for Ian Stirling today. I often joked with him he had a thankless task trying to help fans and liaise with the club. He didn’t want praise he just wanted to do his bit. He did a lot more than that. ??
— Jay Motty (@JayMotty) March 12, 2023
RIP Ian Stirling. Passionate United fan who worked tirelessly for fellow United fans and will be sadly missed.
— Mark Goldbridge (@markgoldbridge) March 11, 2023
In shock about the passing of Ian Stirling. He absolutely loved Manchester United and was an incredibly warm, generous, kind, funny and popular man. It’s absolutely tragic news and my heart goes out to his family. A terrible loss. RIP Ian ??
— James Ducker (@TelegraphDucker) March 11, 2023
Devastating news about Ian Stirling. He did so much for Manchester United fans for so long. A stalwart, he was central to safe standing returning to Old Trafford. Trusted, respected, credible, approachable, J Stand and better liked than he ever knew. Rest in peace, Ian. pic.twitter.com/GULBBSVYw7
— Andy Mitten (@AndyMitten) March 11, 2023
Manchester United themselves also paid tribute to Stirling via the official club website.
It’s clear from such an outpouring that he was a very special man indeed and one that will be sorely missed by all.
The wearing of black armbands seems a fitting tribute to a man that was obviously held in such high regard by all, and is surely an unprecedented move for any club to make given that Mr. Stirling was not a club official.
The words that United have used in their tribute to him are genuine and heartfelt, for a man that has surely left a lasting impression on all whom he met:
‘Everyone at Manchester United is profoundly saddened by the loss of our longstanding friend and fan representative Ian Stirling, who has died at the age of 57.
‘Over many years, Ian played a vital role in dialogue between fans and the club and as a fearless champion on fan issues.
‘Ian was a founding member of the club’s Fans’ Advisory Board and a long-time member of our Fans’ Forum. As the Independent Supporter Liaison Officer for Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, Ian worked tirelessly to promote and protect the interests of our fans.
‘Richard Arnold, Manchester United Chief Executive, said: “This is truly devastating news for all of us at the club who knew and worked with Ian. He was a towering figure within our fan community, loved and respected in equal measure. Ian was a relentless and unflinching advocate for the interests of fans, particularly match-goers, and we highly-valued the plain-speaking advice he provided.
‘“We send our sincere condolences to his wife, Lynn, daughter Lucy, and other loved ones. The best tribute we can pay to Ian is to continue strengthening the club’s commitment to fan engagement via the Fans’ Advisory Board and Fans’ Forum, and preserving the lines of communication and advocacy which he opened in his role as Independent Supporter Liaison Officer.”
‘The team will wear black armbands in our Premier League game against Southampton at Old Trafford today as a mark of respect for Ian’s immense contribution.’