Heysel Stadium Disaster
May 1985 was perhaps the blackest month in British football history . On the 11th May 56 people died in a horrific fire at Valley Parade, Bradford City ’s ground. That tragedy was inadvertent; on May 29th more sinister actions led to the deaths of 39 football fans before that year’s European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels.
Heysel it was later acknowledged was a far from ideal venue for such a big match: old-fashioned, parts of it said to be in a state of disrepair, and cramped for space when holding a capacity crowd as it was that night. But there would have been no problem had drink-fuelled hooligans, purportedly Liverpool fans, not decided to attack a section of Juventus supporters about an hour before kick-off after prolonged exchanges of makeshift missiles by both sides. The louts burst through scanty police lines and surged towards their targets; many of those facing the attack retreated in panic to a corner where a wall collapsed on them, killing 39 and injuring a further 200.
Against the wishes of both managers it was decided to play the game in spite of the disaster, the fear being that the violence which had followed the tragedy, Juventus fans seeking revenge for the loss-of-life, might escalate into a hand-to-hand battle in the stadium and the streets of Brussels without the diversion of a game. Liverpool lost 1 – 0 in a match played without passion, many players looking like they were on automatic pilot. Shortly afterwards the FA, backed by UEFA, banned English clubs from European competition for five years.