Last updated : 06 April 2004 By editor
From the Guardian.

Asking a footballer for his autograph might be a simple enough request but in the case of Manchester United it might lead only to disappointment.

The world's best-supported club has declared a ban on signing various forms of memorabilia, even if it means disappointing its youngest supporters.

Rather than a collective case of writer's cramp, the club says it is to reduce the risk of autograph hunters selling items on the internet. In some cases, the club suspects that dealers are paying children to spend the day outside United's training ground collecting signatures.

Regardless of who they disappoint, the players will refuse to sign footballs, shirts, posters, portraits or anything else that could constitute a collector's item.
Magazines, match programmes and photographs represent something of a grey area, when it is up to the player to decide. The only item a supporter can brandish without risking short shrift from Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy and the rest of Sir Alex Ferguson's squad seems to be a blank sheet of paper.

The club has apologised to supporters but says the ban will continue for the foreseeable future. "Sadly it's the genuine autograph hunters who are made to suffer," said a spokesman. "We regret that fact - and the players regret it more than anyone - but clearly action was necessary to stop concerted and organised dealers."