The story of the Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation

Wednesday 08 February 2023 13:00

There is a corner of a foreign field in Germany that is forever Manchester, to paraphrase First World War poet Rupert Brooke. That field, or square, is known as Manchesterplatz.

Situated in Trudering-Riem, a borough of Munich, it is close to the site of the 1958 Munich Air Disaster. In that small, quiet square is a memorial stone, built by Manchester United in 2004, that pays tributes to those that were lost during the tragic event, including eight first-team players.
But although the stone was organised by the club, after 2004 it was primarily looked after by conscientious locals. Fans would visit each year for the anniversary, and be moved by the care and goodwill shown by the people of Munich.
United Foundation honours the Babes' legacy Video

United Foundation honours the Babes' legacy

United players and Foundation participants commemorate the Busby Babes to mark the 65-year anniversary of Munich...

Just under six years ago, a group of Reds decided it was time to give something back. That group became the Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation (MMMF), which is now a registered charity that raises money for charities in Belgrade, Manchester and Munich – the three cities linked to the 1958 crash – with the ultimate aim of preserving the legacy of the Busby Babes for future generations.
“Early 2017, there was a call to arms: ‘Let’s do something for the 60th [anniversary],” explains chairman Pat Burns. “About 30 lads gathered at Urmston Men’s Club – it was a ragtag bunch of lads getting together and coming up with some ideas, putting their heads above the parapet. And it was a blinding success. 
“We raised money, got introduced to the mayor of Munich, raised money for children’s charities, did a bench for the memorial site. The essence of it was a thank you to the people of Munich, while paying our respects to the Babes as well. Coming back, we thought: well, that was brilliant, wasn’t it? Germany that is forever Manchester, So we’ll continue, and we’ll continue fundraising.”
A website was created, a not-for-profit company was established, and a board of directors put in place. And quickly, the organisation's reach started to spread much further than Manchesterplatz and events around the Munich anniversary.
First, Harry Gregg requested the group investigate doing some charitable work in Belgrade, where the Babes played their final game before making their way to Munich. “Me and Melissa [Moore, MMMF member] went to Belgrade,” explains vice-chairman Tony Crook. “A big Red Star fan, Pero Radovanac, drove us round and introduced us to a few charities.”
The MMMF decided to support FK Studentski Grad – an underage football club in Serbia, tied to the University of Belgrade. Similar links were then made with Depaul UK, a youth homelessness charity with a project in Greater Manchester. Another youth football project, Pikassio Libero, was recommended by the mayor of Munich’s office, during discussions around the MMMF’s organisation of the 60th anniversary memorial at Manchesterplatz. In November 2020, the group was granted charity status.

“It’s for the fans, by fans, done in the right, respectful way,” stresses Burns. “I’m very proud of how we conduct ourselves. We act with integrity, accountability, transparency. Ninety-eight per cent of fans’ donations go to charity. We don’t take a penny, and if I ever fessed up to my wife how much I spend on buying stuff and donating stuff, she’d go nuts!

“Young kids in Germany can’t believe that the greatest football club in the world and its fans actually think something about them. That we do something. We’ve reached out and we’ve given back, and we’ve done it because we love United and we love the Babes.”
A sign denotes the renamed square in Trudering-Riem close to the crash site, where the MMMF and club officials gather each year to pay their respects to the Munich victims.
Strong links with the club have been formed: Academy head Nick Cox is an MMMF patron, as is 1968 European Cup winner John Aston Jnr. Brian Kidd has been named honorary president, while patrons Jane Gregg and Nick Murphy provide a familial link to those affected in 1958. The MMMF has also been instrumental in discussions around Jimmy Murphy’s statue, which is set to be unveiled on 3 May.
Three days before the 65th anniversary, Burns presented a plaque to the Metropol Hotel in Belgrade, where the Babes stayed during their 1958 trip to Yugoslavia. On the 6 February, the MMMF led the Munich Memorial Ceremony in Manchesterplatz, which was attended by Bryan Robson and ex-Bayern Munich goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, as well as United’s Under-13s squad and many travelling Reds.
“We’ve grown from a little acorn into an oak tree,” says Crook. “People respect us, because we do what we do not for platitudes; we do it to make people aware.”
“We’ve all followed United all of our lives,” continues Pat. “We can give something back and we can keep it real, keep it grounded, keep it earthed. As we start to lose people who are directly connected [to Munich and the Babes], we want to make sure that fans have a say on what it morphs into. Our job is to preserve and enhance, where we can, the memory of the Babes. And I think we do it well.”

Every January and February, the MMMF runs a Just Giving campaign to raise money in memory of the Busby Babes and in support of children’s charities in Belgrade, Greater Manchester and Munich. To donate, visit and search for ‘mmmf2023’.