George Best family row as brother sells flag from football hero’s funeral

June 17, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

The brother of football star George Best defended his decision to sell the flag which was draped over his COFFIN.

Ian Best, 43, was given the Northern Ireland football association flag by his later father Dickie after George’s funeral.

More than 100,000 people lined the streets as the Manchester United legend was laid to rest following a long battle against alcohol.

Ian was among the pallbearers who walked through Belfast carrying the coffin which was draped in the green flag.

But Ian, a self-employed courier, of Torquay, Devon, has now put it up for sale for £6,000.

The flag failed to sell at auction after it didn’t make its guide price but Ian is still hoping a buyer can be found.

The sale has caused outrage in the best family including his sister Barbara who have labelled it ”macabre”.

But Ian said: ‘People have this idea that because we are part of George’s family we have money, but we don’t.

“The flag was draped over his coffin but that was it, and I wanted to use the money to buy things that were closer to George.

“My sister isn’t happy, but I am not kicking off about it. If the Manchester United Museum wanted it they could have asked for it, but no-one has come forward.”

The flag covered George’s coffin for its journey from his father’s house in Northern Ireland to the cemetery where he is buried beside his mother, Ann.

Ian says he was given the emerald green flag at George’s graveside by his late father Dickie, then aged 88, on the day of the funeral.

He first sparked a huge family row in 2008 when he decided to sell off the flag and put it up for auction at Bonham’s.

That sale two years ago was halted because of an ownership dispute in the family which was later resolved.

But a second sale at Bonham’s in London on Wednesday also flopped after it failed to reach the guide price of £6,000.

Ian has now defended his actions and said he was “very close” to George, despite the 20 year age gap between them.

Father-of-five Ian said: ”I wanted to sell the flag for two reasons.

”Firstly, because of the insurance premiums on it and secondly because I would like to buy some of the things that actually belonged to George and meant something to him when he was alive.

”The flag to me isn’t a reminder of him. Every day somewhere along the line I think about a member of the family that isn’t here anymore.”

Ian and George’s sister Barbara McNarry, who started the George Best Foundation, said she was ”outraged” by the sale.

Posting on the foundation’s website, she said: ”It is with heartfelt and profound sadness to see that one of the Northern Ireland flags which was draped on George’s coffin is to be sold at auction.

”Despite our best concentrated efforts, we were unable to prevent this macabre event taking place.

”The flag should have continued to be part of George’s enduring legacy and not put up for personal gain. Sorry George, we tried. Barbara.”

One of George’s friends, Malcolm Wagner, 65, said the flag should go to the Manchester United Museum or the George Best Foundation.

Malcolm said: ”The boy’s only been dead for five years. This is like selling the clothes he was wearing when he was buried.

”His sister Barbara and her husband Norman, who was friends with George too, also find this very upsetting.”

A spokesman said: ”The flag has not sold as there was not enough interest in the item and it failed to reach the guide price.

”As with all unsold lots, it will now be returned to the owner who will have the option to reconsign it for a future auction with us.”

Ian’s wife Tracey said the unsold flag would now be stored away at their home in Torquay while they decide whether or not to sell again.

She said: ”Ian isn’t a money-grabbing man. He is a very caring man and I am angry they have made him out to be this way.

”If it doesn’t sell it will stay in storage until there is some sort of resolution and I don’t know when that will be.”

A spokesman for Bonham’s said it had failed to sell because of a ‘lack of interest’ and the flag will now be returned to Ian.

George Best was one of the world’s greatest footballers and died aged 59 from multiple organ failure as a result of his alcoholism.

More than 100,000 people lined the route of the funeral, which was attended by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ian, and his brother in law, Norman McNarry, were among the pallbearers.

Bonhams describe the flag on their website as: ”Lot No: 525. The Northern Irish flag draped on George Best’s coffin”.

It adds: ”A green flag of Northern Ireland imprinted with Northern Irish Football Association badge, red hand logo and ‘Northern Ireland’.

”This flag was draped over George Best’s coffin during the journey from his father’s house to his place of rest. The lot includes a letter of authenticity.”

At Christie’s in London in September 2006, the shirt Best wore when he scored six goals for Manchester United against Northampton Town in 1970 sold for £24,000.

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