Inside Lines: Ronaldo is not this United fan's Mr Write

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The Independent Online

Here's a tale which further demonstrates the lack of rapport Manchester United seem to have with their genuine fans. A friend has an adopted daughter who came here from Bulgaria speaking no English and is now studying for a university degree. She has also become an ardent United fan, spending all her spare cash travelling from London to support them. Her parents wanted to surprise her with a signed photo of her idol, Cristiano Ronaldo, for her 21st birthday. Three months ago, an approach was made to United's PR people, who promised to "do their best". Nothing happened. Subsequently a letter was sent enclosing a photo of Ronaldo, plus a stamped addressed envelope. No reply. Finally a note addressed to Ronaldo himself, with photo and SAE. All he had to do was get someone to pop it back in the post. Result: zilch. No doubt United's American owners would be surprised at this because in the US, where sport knows the value of PR, they do things rather differently. But that's football for you. A game – and a club – too big for its boots?

No girls allowed on golden ticket to Riyadh

There is no likelihood of Manchester United upsetting any female fans in Saudi Arabia this week. Because there won't be any for Tuesday's friendly in the capital, Riyadh. The Saudis ban women from watching, let alone playing, sport publicly, something the International Olympic Committee and Fifa ignore despite it being arguably as discriminatory as the apartheid that rightly saw South Africa ostracised from major sport. But serious money talks in the Middle East, as United know only too well. Their men-only match against local side Al Hilal is reportedly worth £1m to them.

Windy City fears being burned in Bush fire

Even before the 2012 Olympic flame has been ignited over London, competition is hotting up to fan it for 2016. Of the seven bidding cities, Tokyo have been first out of the blocks to reveal a unique concept featuring the first Games to be contained within the city centre. Front-runners Chicago have a similarly compact lakeside plan. They also have the dubious backing of George Bush, who last week pledged his "full support", thus sending a shiver through the Windy City because of his global unpopularity. "The best thing that will happen is that President Bush will be out of office nine months before the host city is chosen," says the 'Chicago Times'. Obviously no desire to be Bush-whacked, then.

It's 'ciao' for now, say fair-weather Aussies

The decision to enlist Aldershot barracks as base camp for London's 2012 Games squad, predicted here last week, has caused deep disappointment on the sporting campuses of Bath and Loughborough but it is a sound move, not least because of the in-house security and medical facilities. Both losers are likely to attract overseas teams in the Games build-up, though Birmingham has already landed the big fish, the United States, and Australia have decided they are better off trusting the sunshine in Italy for their pre-Games training than the vagaries of an English summer.

FA prepare case for defence if Capello comes under a tax

Talking of Italy, the FA communications chief, Adrian Bevington, who wisely is learning the lingo, is among those speaking at a £595-a-head briefing at a London law firm on Tuesday on how sports can protect their image when embroiled in legal issues – timely in view of the Italian taxman's investigation into Fabio Capello.