David Lacey in Brussels
Wednesday May 29, 1985
Liverpool lost the European Cup to Juventus last night, but the game of football has lost far, far more. In short, it died along with the 47 people trampled to death when a group of mainly Italian supporters stampeded to get away from rioting Liverpool fans and were crushed when first barriers, and then a wall, collapsed.
After the scenes of death, injury and destruction in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, the result seems irrelevant, the details meaningless. How can a match be anything else when even as the players are winning their tackles, making their passes and producing their shots, the death toll continues to mount?
After the wretched affair had ended with the Juventus team doing a hurried half-lap of honour with the trophy, news came through that all 11 members of the Anderlecht youth team who had taken part in the warm-up game had perished.
Last night the horrors of crowd violence which have spread their tentacles from Britain to Europe for more than a decade overtook football on one of its most important occasions and the consequences for the game in general and English soccer in particular can only be severe. Already we have had a season in which the Football Association have ordered an FA Cup tie to be played behind closed doors, and mounting violence at Chelsea in a Milk Cup semi-final and at Luton in a FA Cup quarter-final. The Bradford fire in which 53 died was in a category apart, but still added to the trail of mounting misery. We have seen football hooliganism in China of all places, and only this week 10 people died in Mexico City as a crowd tried to force its way into the national Cup Final.
It has all ended in a cry of anguish in Brussels. Liverpool, with one of the proudest records in Continental competition, now bear the scar of the worst rioting and the most tragic consequences ever seen in a European tournament. There is bound to be talk of banning all English clubs from European competitions until our game puts itself in order. Yet only 24 hours earlier, members of the Football Association voted out a proposal to harden up the rules on club responsibility which would have fallen into line with Government thinking. After the Bradford fire, the cry went up: "Who pays?" In Brussels last night there was only one answer, and they were lined up in a makeshift mortuary outside the Heysel Stadium.
The facts of the match can only sound hollow, but have to be told. After Liverpool had dominated the opening half-hour and forced several urgent saves from Tacconi, they lost the game to a Michel Platini 10 minutes into the second half, awarded after Boniek had been brought down by Gillespie (one of the Liverpool substitutes) nearly a yard outside the area.
In the normal course of events this would have been the main talking point. As it was, on was glad something had happened to ensure that the game did not last any longer than was necessary. Inevitably the question of whether the match should have gone ahead remained the most urgent point of issue. In an ideal world it would have been cancelled immediately after the deaths on the terraces occurred. However, the decision to go ahead was probably the right one, even if it was made for the wrong reasons: the game had to be played to avoid the risk of further rioting, and in order to disperse the crowd of more than 50,000 as peacefully as possible.
What a way for Joe Fagan to end his short time as Liverpool manager. Poor Fagan - in all his years at Anfield he could hardly have envisaged having to begin a European Cup final by walking out on to the arena wearing a No.13 Liverpool shirt to calm the fans. To their credit, both teams did their best to restore what dignity they could to a hopelessly-ruined occasion. In any other context, one could have described it as one of the better European finals of recent years.
Lawrenson lasted only two minutes before aggravating the shoulder injury which had always threatened to put him out of the match, and Gillespie rejoined Hansen at centre-back. For a time this did not concern Liverpool overmuch as they moved forward in their patient, positive way, and prevented Platini running the match between the two penalty areas. Towards half-time, however, Briaschi switched from the right wing to the left in an effort to expose Neal and started to become a threat; and gradually Platini's influence grew.
Wark was cautioned for fouling Boniek when the Pole attempted to burst through the middle, and in the 55th minute, when Platini at last managed to set Boniek at Liverpool's square defence, the moment proved decisive.
Gillespie reached Boniek as he approached the penalty area and brought him down well outside it: but the Swiss referee, Andre Daina, was always going to give the penalty, and Platini sent the Juventus reporters into unrealistic ecstasies when he beat Grobbelaar.
Liverpool Grobbelaar, Neal, Lawrenson, Hansen, Beglin, Nicol, Dalglish, Wark, Whelan, Walsh, Rush.
Juventus Tacconi, Favero, Caprini, Bonini, Brio, Scirea, Briaschi, Tardelli, Rossi, Platini, Boniek.
The lessons of Heysel
Commentary from David Lacey
Thursday May 30, 1985
Professional football as a spectator sport lay mortally wounded in Brussels last night. The European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus, a game which promised to represent modern soccer at its best, succumbed to that other modern phenomenon, crowd violence, and this time suffered the full tragic consequences.
Coming so soon after the Bradford fire disaster, with 53 dead, and the incident in Mexico City this week when 10 people were crushed to death as the crowd struggled to force their way into the Olympic Stadium for the National Cup Final, last night's scenes offered grim reminders that the world's most popular sport is in grave peril.
The usual reasons and excuses will be offered. The trouble started with a minority of Liverpool fans throwing missiles towards Juventus supporters and drifting towards their part of the terraces.
The police, who seemed to have learned nothing from the excellent way their Dutch counterparts handled the Everton supporters in Rotterdam for the Cup-Winners Cup final a fortnight ago, weighed in with riot shields and batons cracking any head they came across.
This provoked a violent reaction from the Liverpool fans and it was when the police, heavily outnumbered, lost control of the situation for a minute or two that panic set in among the Juventus supporters who thought they were about to be attacked.
They they surged towards the narrow entrance to the arena, first crush barriers and then the surrounding wall gave way and those in front were trampled.
When the authorities hold their inquiry they will need to ask about crowd segregation and the strength of the barriers that were meant to separate the fans. However, to judge by the empty and broken bottles in the centre of Brussels and on the outside the stadium, drink was again at the heart of the problem.
While it is premature to lay the blame wholly at the door of the Liverpool supporters it must be said that before the disturbances there had been little, if any, sign of trouble on the terraces occupied by the Juventus fans.
It is the first time in 21 years of competition that Liverpool has been involved in serious violence.
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