Ah, the online poll. A sure-fire way to get eminently sensible, in-no-way-a-massive-wind-up suggestions from the public about the important issues of the day. Or not. For the Law of Boaty McBoatface states that if you give the give the internet an inch, it will duly hijack it and with unrepentant, viral glee, turn the whole thing into a cheeky, zany and/or quite possibly offensive fiasco.

The latest poor souls to discover this the hard way work for a regional highways authority in Germany, who innocently thought a bit of public participation would be the ideal way to choose the new colour scheme for a planned motorway bridge just outside the city of Darmstadt. What could possibly go wrong?

Sure enough, ZDF reports that fans of Eintracht Frankfurt, showing an admirable determination to confound national stereotypes and have a bit of a lark, seized the opportunity to wind-up derby rivals SV Darmstadt 98 by voting their team's colours - red - to the top of the poll, beating poor old Darmstadt's blue into second.

It's fair to say relations between the two sets of fans were already somewhat strained. They were locked in a relegation dogfight all season and, in much less jovial scenes at the start of the year, Eintracht Frankfurt fans set fire to Darmstadt scarves and flags after a home defeat. They were banned from attending the away game.

Darmstadt's city council is not taking this latest affrontery lying down and has said it will vote on whether to lobby for the decision to be reversed - but the highways authority has so far resisted calls to re-run the poll or scrap the result. The mayor has even taken the matter up with the regional transport minister.

"The city government would really like the bridge to be painted in a neutral colour," a spokesperson told broadcaster HR, arguing that this would "contribute to a de-escalation between fan groups".

This isn't the first time that local government has fallen victim to the Law of Boaty McBoatface.

In 2011, an online poll to name a new government centre in Fort Wayne, Indiana, was unexpectedly flooded with votes for a former mayor who won four terms between the 1930s and 1950s.

Was it this exemplary record of selfless public service that had so moved the online masses to demand that he be forever commemorated in so high-profile a setting? Not quite.

His name? Harry Baals.