Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

British Soccer: On the Line. Investigators Look beyond Issue of Curbing Fan Violence to Preserving Spectator Safety. STADIUM DISASTER

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

British Soccer: On the Line. Investigators Look beyond Issue of Curbing Fan Violence to Preserving Spectator Safety. STADIUM DISASTER

Article excerpt

EUROPE'S worst-ever sports disaster highlights the conflict between measures to curb fan violence and the need to ensure the safety of spectators in crowded and often poorly designed sports stadiums.

Even before a government investigation begins, some English soccer clubs say they will pull down perimeter fences designed to keep rival fans separated, but which effectively trap spectators inside a caged area.

Some questions raised when 94 soccer fans were crushed to death at Sheffield last weekend go beyond the immediate circumstances of the incident. They call attention to the peculiarities of soccer in Britain and the passion of local clubs who support their teams with an enthusiasm which has led to violence in the past.

The disaster at Sheffield was not the result of hooliganism, similar to the violence by Liverpool fans which led to the deaths of 38 people at Heysel stadium in Brussels four years ago. But the problem of hooliganism and the safety of large and sometimes rowdy crowds at soccer matches are related.

`WE have talked far too much about soccer hooliganism this year when we ought to be talking about safety and improving the grounds," said Roy Hattersley, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party. Mr. Hattersley is a regular spectator at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield where the disaster occurred last Saturday.

Hattersley called for a bipartisan effort to solve the problems facing soccer, the most popular sport among Britain's working classes. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher promised a full inquiry into the Sheffield incident.

Some of the questions now debated include the following:

Should British soccer clubs follow guidelines from the International Football Association and provide seating for all spectators?

Traditionally in Britain, large numbers of fans have gained cheap admission to the game by standing in enclosed spaces, known as terraces, at both ends of the field. The deaths at Sheffield came after police opened the gates in an attempt to relieve the pressure outside the stadium from Liverpool fans who arrived late and often without tickets.

Reducing standing room would control crowds, since, experts say, seated fans are less likely to storm the field. …

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