Hooliganism in English football has been deep-rooted. Although incidents of hooliganism have become very rare in modern football, the horrible scenes during the early days of the ongoing European Championship brought it all to focus once again.
The English supporters started creating trouble during their stay in Marseille before their team’s opening fixture in the competition. Things took an ugly turn when Russian supporters joined their English counterparts and turned out to be even more aggressive than the English.
The scenes that were witnessed during England’s draw with Russia in the group stage – when a bunch of Russian hooligans charged into English supporters causing grievous injuries to several – were thought to have been confined to a distant and dark past, but reared their ugly head once again.
The 1985 European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool played at the Heysel Stadium remains the most tragic night in European football. The match ended in a 1-0 win for Juventus but it is remembered for the 39, mostly Italian and Juventus fans, who died and a further 600 were injured after an act of recklessness from Liverpool supporters.
On the night of 29th May 1985 at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, a set of Liverpool fans charged at their Juventus counterparts. The two sets of fans were separated by a wall, but the charging of the Reds’ supporters led to the collapse of the wall and many fans had to lose their lives under the collapsed wall.
Video courtesy: FIGHTERS 1985
The English supporters were notorious for their hooliganism throughout the world and were known for creating ruckus on their away trips. And it all came to a boil in Brussels that night.
In the aftermath of the tragic events, the UEFA observer Gunter Schneider observed, “Only the English fans were responsible. Of that there is no doubt.” A total of 34 people were arrested and questioned and 26 Liverpool fans were charged with manslaughter.
Subsequently, UEFA imposed an indefinite ban on English teams from participating in the European competitions. The English outfits remained banned from UEFA competitions for five years, while Liverpool served an extra year of suspensions from Europe. They eventually returned to European competitions in the 1991/92 season.
The ban meant that all English teams had to suffer. Perhaps the worst affected were the two Merseyside clubs – Liverpool and Everton. The Toffees were going through the best years of their history in terms of success on the pitch. And their league win in the 1985/86 season meant that they would have represented England in the European Cup that season, however, the ban made it impossible for them to do so.
In the following five years Liverpool were the worst hit as they were deprived of participation in the European Cup on three occasions, Arsenal were denied once, while Everton missed out on the 1987/88 campaign.
With increased security presence in matches and the increased sensitivity among supporters has meant that hooliganism has been almost stamped out of the game.