January 2008 saw the inaugural presentation of the Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year trophy, given to the organisation judged to have made the most significant contribution to the work of the Robert Burns International Foundation during the course of the past 12 months. Deservedly, it went to the host and co-organizer of the Budapest Burns Suppers since 2003, the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal.
“The management and staff of the hotel work very hard each year to make the Burns Supper such a success, to maximize the amount of funds raised and to make the various arrangements as simple as possible for the volunteers who put the event together,” explained Stuart McAlister, chairman of the 2008 Burns Supper organising committee. “These factors made the hotel the clear choice as inaugural recipient of the sponsor of the year award.”
A very special guest, Puskás’ widow Erzsébet, handed over the trophy to the Corinthia’s general manager Adrian Ellis at the 11th Budapest Burns Supper on Saturday, 26 January 2008. But it wasn’t the first time he had laid eyes on the specially crafted copper ball.
During a visit to Budapest in 2007, Manchester United Football Club manager Sir Alex Ferguson, a self-confessed aficionado of Robert Burns, had agreed to become Honorary President of the RBIF. But with his “day job” leading one of the biggest football clubs in the world keeping him busy most weekends, it had proved difficult to invite Sir Alex over to the Burns Supper, leaving the committee looking for ways in which he could fulfill his duties each year, explained Jock MacKenzie, chairman of the RBIF.
The logical conclusion was that he would present the award to the sponsor. “Sir Alex kindly agreed to this, and even suggested that the sponsor… be presented with the trophy at Old Trafford, Manchester United’s ground before a match,” MacKenzie added. And so it was that five minutes before kick-off at Old Trafford on Saturday, 12 January 2008, Fergie presented the trophy to Ellis, in front of a full house, the little matter of some 75,000 people.
By Robin Marshall
For more on the Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year trophy, click here.