From the Rage Online newsdesk Saturday, April 1st, 1989  


Yet again, death and football meet in the most horrible circumstances. This time we can’t blame old stadia or foreign administration. This tragedy occurred at one of our better grounds, well used to staging such events. There are several lessons to be learned: fences kill people in emergencies, the build up of crowds outside grounds kills people, incorrect ticket allocation kills people. All of the above are pretty obvious to any one used to standing on a terrace, but seemingly incomprehensible to Government, some Police forces and the league’s bungling administrators. How many more people have to die before the Authorities listen to the Fans? Will they ever learn?


After Heysel, The Government insisted upon fences on all ground perimeters to prevent pitch invasions. This hopeless measure was an indication of their total lack of understanding of the problem. Pitch invasions are actually relatively harmless events, and are not usually done with the intention of causing violence, Less than four years later their crass actions resulted in the deaths of 94 people at Hillsborough.

They should have realised the horrendous implications of perimeter fencing by speculating how much worse the Bradford fire would have been had it been installed at Valley Parade. Common sense alone could have told them that.

The FA also played a large role in causing the tragedy. At the time Graham Kelly feebly attempted to deny their part: ‘I feel that the discrepancy in the number of tickets is so small that it is not relevant to the discussion we are having at this moment’.Kelly said this minutes after the tragedy. Well what the hell were they talking about then? The ‘small’ discrepancy was 6,000 tickets; the disaster was caused by 3,000 fans entering at the last minute when the police opened a gate and let them in without even checking their tickets.

The police tried to justify opening the gate because ‘there was danger to life in the crush outside the ground’. So they direct thousands of supporters into an already-packed ground. Brilliant! How many more people would have been crushed outside the ground at that time had there been an ID card scheme in operation?

The whole thing was so avoidable, yet at the same time inevitable; why did the police allow 3,000 people in at once, many without tickets, onto an already full terrace? Why did the FA allocate 6,000 more tickets to Forest (average attendance 19,000) and put the Liverpool fans (34,000) in the smaller end? Hopefully, the enquiry into the disaster will, for once, result in sensible measures being taken to ensure safety rather than segregation and captivity.


It is Sunday morning and the tragedy happened yesterday. Like so many other people I know somebody who was probably on that terrace and I can’t summon the courage to phone his home. So I’m sitting waiting for South Yorks. Police to phone back, and finding reasons to be sure that Sean couldn’t, possibly, have been near the front, in that terrible crush.

When football is struck by tragedy, everybody wonders what football really means to them, so that they may decide whether it is still worth it. For me, for Sean, for other friends of mine, football has been not just a magnificent sport but a common bond of honesty and reality – a haven from a society of alienation and inhumanity. What joy there has been, these last few years, has come from football. It cannot be football that takes away our lives.

It would be premature to say for sure what were the causes of the tragedy. If there are suggestions that it was not an unavoidable accident, that negli-gence and a careless attitude were to blame: we must hope that this is not so, for otherwise it will surely happen again, But if it is shown that fences must come down, that stewarding must be more careful, that an onus on public order be replaced by one on public safety – then let this be implemented quickly, before more lives are needlessly lost.

When the news broke, the horror that went through our minds was not just for those who were there – but for ourselves, because it could indeed have been us in their place. It is only this sense of a common humanity that can overcome the obstacles of profit and in-difference, and make our game safe again for people to share its joys and consolations.

Our thoughts go out to the dead and injured, and to the family and friends, and those, like myself, waiting for news. For their sake and ours, we have to ensure there are no more Hillsboroughs.


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