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Manchester United recently announced that Old Trafford's South Stand is to be renamed the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand. While no one would suggest that Charlton isn't worthy of such recognition – he played 758 games and scored 249 goals for the club, it is interesting to assess how executives arrive at such decisions. In the case of Manchester United, Charlton joins another club legend, Alex Ferguson, in having a significant portion of Old Trafford dedicated to him.
Old Trafford’s South Stand will now be renamed the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand
Why, though, did Matt Busby not receive the same recognition? Admittedly the main road leading to the ground bears his name, while the stadium’s facade is synonymous with his statue. But Ferguson also has a bronze sculpture outside Old Trafford, and a nearby road named after him, in addition to the stand. Perhaps the prominence of the tributes to Busby balances this out, or maybe the club have formulated a policy where stands can only be renamed if the person being honoured is still alive?
While a special relationship is occasionally rewarded with the honour bestowed to Charlton and Ferguson, various clubs have opted to keep their stands’ traditional names or simply utilise the points of a compass. White Hart Lane, for instance, is made up of North, East, South and West Stands, while at Goodison Park, the stands are all named after the respective roads on which they are situated – Gwlady’s Street, Bullens Road, Park End and Goodison Road.
At the other end of the spectrum, Wolves dedicate all four sides of Molineux to servants of the club – Steve Bull, Stan Cullis, Billy Wright and Jack Harris. At the same time, many clubs have chosen to recognise former players, managers and board members in other ways. Liverpool, with Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, and West Brom with Jeff Astle, felt the best way to appreciate their heroes was with gates. At the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal created a similar effect by renaming the bridges that lead up to the stadium after long-serving directors, Ken Friar and Danny Fiszman.
People usually receive these tributes because they are deserving of them and, ultimately, it should not be a question of whether it is the best way to honour them or whether they are more or less deserving of them than anyone else. And whatever people think about Manchester United’s decision, at least they’ve chosen to celebrate a club legend, rather than succumb to the modern football fashion of promoting a sponsorship partner. No one wants to see the Commercial Bank of Qatar Stand. Adam Shaw
Photo by Colin McPherson for WSC Photography: A statue of Denis Law, Bobby Charlton and George Best looks over Old Trafford, but only one has a stand named after him