Manchester United last night welcomed a decision by the online auction site, eBay, to remove from sale commemorative Munich scarves that the club gave away to fans at Sunday's Manchester derby.
As a gesture to help honour the victims of the tragedy in the week of the 50th anniversary of the disaster, the club provided every fan – 73,000 from United and 3,000 from City – with a scarf, a letter from the chief executive, David Gill, and a replica copy of the programme from United's first post-crash game against Sheffield Wednesday.
In a moving tribute, the crowd observed a minute's silence before kick-off on Sunday while holding the scarves aloft. But even before kick-off, some of the commemorative items had been put up for sale on eBay, and by yesterday afternoon there were dozens for sale.
While there is little eBay can do to prevent new listings, the auction firm began removing as many as possible yesterday afternoon.
An eBay spokeswoman said: "Due to the unique and commemorative nature of the scarves handed out at Sunday's football match at Manchester United, eBay will not allow the sale of these items on the site. We are working to ensure these listings are removed from the site immediately."
She said the "potential for profit to be made from human tragedy" conflicted with the site's Offensive Material policy. "We applaud the move," a United spokesman said. The former United winger, Albert Scanlon, a Munich survivor, said: "You don't go to these [games] to make money."
Before removal, some of the items attracted bids as high as £9.9m, but these were clearly hoaxes, and on closer inspection appear to have been made by people who registered with eBay for the first time yesterday solely to make fake bids.
Yet the mere presence of these bids – with the hoaxes ranging from thousands of pounds to £10m – provoked some news agencies to suggest fans were cashing in to the tune of thousands of pounds on Munich aircrash memorabilia. A more prosaic explanation is that a small number of fans put the items up for sale, received genuine bids of between £3 and £60, and will in all likelihood now be stopped by eBay from completing their transactions.