Sixty years on from the Munich air crash that claimed the lives of 23 people including eight Manchester United footballers, club backroom staff, journalists and supporters, the question is being asked: What was the legacy of the disaster for English football, sports journalism and the city of Manchester itself?

The consequences of the tragedy will be discussed at a special event being staged at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) on Wednesday 7th February, the day after the Munich air crash anniversary.

The disaster all but wiped out the legendary “Busby Babes” – the exciting young team assembled by Matt Busby which was, at the time, vying for a third consecutive First Division championship. In addition to the eight team members who died, another two never played again.

The debate at MMU, for which registration is free and tickets are available via Eventbrite, follows the traditional commemorative gathering of fans beneath Old Trafford’s Munich Plaque before the Reds’ home match against Huddersfield Town on 3rd February. An event is being staged at Old Trafford on the day of the anniversary itself, the details for which have yet to be announced.

It was on 6th February 1958 that the British European Airways Airspeed Ambassador airliner carrying 38 passengers and six crew crashed in a blizzard on its third attempt to take off from Munich airport. United were returning from Belgrade where they had just beaten Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup and had stopped off at Munich for re-fuelling. 

Munich air crash remembered 60 years on I Love Manchester
An Airspeed Ambassador similar to the one involved in the crash

The MMU’s “Munich 60 years on: How British sport changed” event will bring together Manchester’s current football journalists and sports historians, as well as football supporters and friends and relatives of those affected by the tragedy to explore how the crash changed the city as well as the nature of British sports journalism. It will also explore how the anniversary is being covered this year for a global, digital audience.

Organised by Vince Hunt, Lecturer in Sports Journalism at MMU, the evening will feature guest speakers and personal memories as well as the screening of films from the North West Film Archive about the crash.

Said Vince: “Munich, as well as having a huge effect on English football, also changed the nature of sports journalism because a whole community of sports journalists were on that plane.

“Our event will bring together fans, football writers, historians and friends and relatives of those affected by the crash to explore the consequences of one of Manchester’s most tragic events.”

Dr Guy Hodgson, sports historian at Liverpool John Moores University, will examine the effect of the Munich air crash on the England national football team and how the 1966 World Cup winning team might have looked very different if a generation of talented English footballers had not been wiped out. Duncan Edwards, who died of his injuries days after the crash, would almost certainly have been in the squad of ’66, perhaps captain as a player in his prime, having already won 18 England caps by the age of 21 when he lost his life.

Alice McKeegan, Head of Football at the Manchester Evening News, will speak about coverage of the event not only for a football-mad city but also for millions of Manchester United fans around the world.  

Paul Clark, Lecturer in Sports Journalism at MMU, will remember the sports reporters who died on the plane – including Frank Swift, one of Manchester City’s greatest ever goalkeepers, who became a writer for the News of the World – and consider how the nature of sports journalism changed as a result.

The North West Film Archive will showcase a selection of Munich films from its vaults, including rare colour footage of the Busby Babes from 1957, specially recut for the anniversary by the Journalism department at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The event is a partnership between Manchester Metropolitan, the Manchester Evening News and the North West Film Archive.

Munich 60 years on: How British sport changed takes place on Wednesday 7th February 2018 from 6pm at Manchester Metropolitan University Journalism department. For more details and tickets visit eventbrite.co.uk.

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