Manchester United Players will be wearing black armbands for the visit of Southampton on Sunday, as a mark of respect to supporter Ian Stirling following his death at the age of 57. The lifelong fan took up the role of independent support liason officer with the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), and his passing has been met with heartfelt tributes across the club.
Sterling, who had been outspoken regarding his desire for the Glazer family to sell United, had been suffering from an illness and stepped down from his role at the trust earlier this month.
The club made a statement on Sunday morning to send their best wishes to Stirling’s family and friends. “Everyone at Manchester United is deeply saddened by the passing of respected fan representative, Ian Stirling,” the statement read. “Ian was a passionate & fearless champion of fan interests, and a cherished friend to countless Reds. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this incredibly sad time.”
United chief executive Richard Arnold added: “This is truly devastating news for all of us at the club who knew &worked with Ian. He was a towering figure within our fan community, loved & 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.”
MUST released a statement paying tribute to “a truly great man” and outlined the work Stirling did for the trust: “Everyone at MUST is heartbroken at the news that Ian Stirling, our much loved friend and colleague, has passed away.
“Ian was a truly great man. Warm, compassionate, generous and funny. As his closest friends and family will confirm, no-one enjoyed a joke more than Ian, and there are few in our fanbase who have inspired such widespread affection and respect.
“For many years he has been at the heart of championing fans' interests. He served as our Independent Supporter Liaison Officer directly helping countless fans in their dealings with the Club and other football authorities but his reach went far beyond that. He also served as our representative on the Fans Forum, making the supporters' case firmly and consistently.
“His stature with the club was such that in latter years he was asked to join the Fans Advisory Board where he spoke truth to power representing the interests of fans and our football club at the highest levels. It really is impossible to think of another United supporter who has done so much for his fellow fans.”