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Heysel Stadium disaster

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Title: Heysel Stadium disaster  
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Subject: Liverpool F.C., History of Liverpool F.C. (1985–present), Liverpool F.C. in European football, 1984–85 in English football, Hillsborough disaster
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Heysel Stadium disaster

Heysel Stadium Disaster
Event 1985 European Cup Final
Juventus 1–0 Liverpool
Date 29 May 1985
Location Heysel Stadium, Brussels
Cause Rioting and stadium disrepair
Injured 600
Deaths 39
Result 5-year ban for English clubs from European competition
(6 years for Liverpool).
14 fans convicted of manslaughter

The Heysel Stadium Disaster (pronounced: ; Dutch: Heizeldrama) occurred on 29 May 1985 when escaping fans were pressed against a wall in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, before the start of the 1985 European Cup Final between Juventus of Italy and Liverpool of England. 39 people—mostly Juventus fans—died[1] and 600 were injured.[2]

Approximately 1 hour before the Juventus-Liverpool final was due to kick off, a large group of Liverpool fans breached a fence separating them from a "neutral area" which contained mostly Juventus fans. They ran back on the terraces and away from the threat into a concrete retaining wall. Fans already seated near the wall were crushed; eventually the wall collapsed. Many people climbed over to safety, but many others died or were badly injured. The game was played despite the disaster in order to prevent further violence.[3]

The tragedy resulted in all English football clubs being placed under an indefinite ban by UEFA from all European competitions (lifted in 1990–91), with Liverpool being excluded for an additional 3 years, later reduced to 1,[4] and fourteen Liverpool fans found guilty of manslaughter and each sentenced to three years' imprisonment. The disaster was later described as "the darkest hour in the history of the UEFA competitions".[5]

Events leading up to the disaster

In May 1985, Liverpool were the defending European Champions' Cup winners, having won the competition after defeating Roma in the penalty shootout in the final of the previous season. Again they would face Italian opposition, Juventus, who had won, unbeaten, the 1983–84 Cup Winners' Cup, had a team comprising many of Italy's 1982 FIFA World Cup winning team–who played for the Old Lady for many years–and their playmaker Michel Platini was considered the best footballer in Europe, being named Footballer of The Year by France Football magazine for two years in a row in December 1984. Both teams were placed in the two first positions in the UEFA club ranking at the end of the last season[6] and were regarded by the specialised press as the best two sides in the continent at the time.[7] Also, both teams had contested the 1984 European Super Cup five months before, finishing with victory for the Italian side by 2–0.

Despite its status as Belgium's national stadium, the Heysel Stadium was in a poor state of repair by the time of the 1985 European Final. The 55-year-old stadium had not been sufficiently maintained for several years, and large parts of the stadium were literally crumbling. For example, the outer wall had been made of cinder block, and fans who did not have tickets were seen kicking holes in it to get in.[8] Liverpool players and fans later said that they were shocked at the abject conditions of the ground, despite reports from Arsenal fans that the stadium was a "dump" when the Gunners played there a few years earlier. They were also surprised that Heysel was chosen despite its poor condition, especially since Barcelona's Camp Nou and Bernabéu in Madrid were both available. Juventus president Giampiero Boniperti and Liverpool CEO Peter Robinson urged UEFA to choose another venue, claiming that Heysel was not suitable to host a European Final, and certainly not one involving two of the most powerful clubs in Europe. However, UEFA refused to consider a move.[9][10]

The stadium was crammed with 58,000–60,000 supporters, with more than 25,000 for each team. The two ends behind the goals comprised all-standing terraces, each end split into three zones. The Juventus end was O, N and M. At the other end Liverpool were allocated X and Y, with the Z section (to one side) being reserved for neutral Belgian fans. The idea of this large neutral area was opposed by both Liverpool and Juventus,[11] as it would provide an opportunity for fans of both clubs to obtain tickets from agencies or from ticket touts outside the ground and thus create a dangerous mix of fans.

At the time Brussels, like the rest of Belgium, already had a large Italian community, and many expatriate Juventus fans bought the section Z tickets.[12] Added to this, many tickets were bought up and sold by travel agents, mainly to Juventus fans. A small percentage of the tickets ended up in the hands of Liverpool fans.


Heysel Stadium by section

At approximately 7 p.m. local time, an hour before kick-off, the trouble started.[13] The Liverpool and Juventus supporters in sections X and Z stood merely yards apart. The boundary between the two was marked by temporary chain link fencing and a central thinly policed no-man's land.[14] Missiles began to be thrown by both fans across the divide. Fans were able to pick up stones from the terraces beneath them.

As kick-off approached, the throwing became more intense. A group of Liverpool fans moved towards the side perimeter wall, near to the corner flag. Juventus fans tried to climb over the wall to escape. Many succeeded; however, the wall could not withstand the force of the fleeing Juventus supporters and collapsed.

It was at this point that the majority of the deaths occurred — 39 people died, and a further 600 were injured.[14][15] Bodies were carried away on sections of iron fencing and laid in piles outside, covered with giant football flags. As police and medical helicopters flew in, the down-draught blew away the modest coverings.

In retaliation for the events in section Z, Juventus fans then rioted at their end of the stadium. They advanced down the stadium running track towards the Liverpool supporters, but police intervention stopped the advance. The Juventus fans fought the police with rocks, bottles and missiles for two hours. One Juventus fan was captured on television footage apparently firing a pistol (later verified as being a starting pistol). When the game kicked off, riot police were still fighting a pitched battle with Juventus supporters, and they maintained a presence around the entire pitch for the duration of the game.

Before the main match, a friendly game was played by very young Belgian selection players, who were playing in colours identical to the cup contestants. In their first half, the red Belgian team built a 3–0 lead, to the delight of the Liverpool fans who were acting as if the cup game had already started. When the white selection team scored in the second half, around 19:10, the English and Italian fans were starting to brawl. With several minutes to go, the game was called off and the young players were taken away.[16]

The match

Despite the scale of the disaster, UEFA officials, Belgium Prime Minister Wilfried Martens, Brussels Mayor Hervé Brouhon, and the city's Police Force felt that abandoning the match would have risked inciting further trouble and violence, and the match eventually kicked off after the captains of both sides spoke to the crowd and appealed for calm.[17]

Juventus won the match 1–0 thanks to a penalty scored by Michel Platini, awarded by Swiss referee Daina for a foul against Zbigniew Boniek.[18]

At the end of the game the Gaetano Scirea. Due to collective hysteria generated by the massive invasion of the pitch by journalists and fans at the end of the match,[19] and the chants of fans of both teams in the stands,[20] some Italian club players celebrated the title in the middle of the pitch among them and in front of their fans in the M section, while some Liverpool players applauded their fans–including those who were convicted of manslaughter at the end of the trial in 1991–between the X and Z sections.[21]

According to former Liverpool striker Ian Rush, the institutional relationships between both clubs and their fans improved during his career in Italy.[9]


Initially, the entire blame for the incident was laid on the fans of Liverpool FC. On 30 May official UEFA observer Gunter Schneider said, "Only the English fans were responsible. Of that there is no doubt." UEFA, the organiser of the event, the owners of Heysel Stadium and the Belgian police were investigated for culpability. After an 18-month investigation, the dossier of top Belgian judge Marina Coppieters was finally published. It concluded that blame should not rest solely with the English fans, and that some culpability lay with the police and authorities. Several top officials were incriminated by some of the dossier’s findings, including police captain Johan Mahieu, who had been in charge of security on 29 May 1985 and was subsequently charged with involuntary manslaughter.

On 31 May, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher put pressure upon the FA to withdraw English clubs from European competition,[22] and 2 days later UEFA banned English clubs for "an indeterminate period of time". On 6 June FIFA extended the ban to all worldwide matches, but this was modified a week later to allow friendly matches to take place. The ban did not apply to the England national team. English clubs were banned indefinitely from European club competitions. In the end, all English clubs were banned for 5 years, and Liverpool for 6. The British police undertook a thorough investigation to bring to justice the perpetrators. Some 17 minutes of film and many still photographs were examined. TV Eye produced an hour-long programme featuring the footage and the British press also published the photographs.

There were 27 arrests on suspicion of manslaughter – the only extraditable offence applicable to events at Heysel. Most of these people had previous convictions for football-related violence. In 1989, after a 5-month trial in Belgium, 14 fans were given 3-year sentences for involuntary manslaughter.[23]

A memorial service for those killed in the disaster was held before Liverpool's match with Arsenal at Anfield on 18 August 1985, however according to The Sydney Morning Herald, it was "drowned out" by chanting.[24]

Heysel Stadium continued to be used for hosting athletics for almost a decade, but no further football matches took place in the old stadium. In 1994, the stadium was almost completely rebuilt as King Baudouin Stadium. On 28 August 1995 the new stadium welcomed the return of football to Heysel in the form of a friendly match between Belgium and Germany. It then hosted a major European final on 8 May 1996 when Paris Saint-Germain defeated Rapid Vienna 1–0 to win the Cup Winners' Cup.

Impact on stadia

After Heysel, English clubs began to impose stricter rules intended to make it easier to prevent troublemakers from attending domestic games, with legal provision to exclude troublemakers for 3 months introduced in 1986, and the Football (Offences) Act introduced in 1991.

Serious progress on legal banning orders preventing foreign travel to matches was arguably not made until the violence involving England fans (allegedly mainly involving neo-Nazi groups, such as Combat 18) at a match against Ireland on February 18th 1995 and violent scenes at the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Rioting at UEFA Euro 2000 saw introduction of new legislation and wider use of police powers – by 2004, 2,000 banning orders were in place, compared to fewer than 100 before Euro 2000.[25][26]

The main reforms to English stadiums came after the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 people died in 1989. All-seater stadia became a requirement for clubs in the top 2 divisions while pitchside fencing was removed and closed-circuit cameras have been installed. Fans who misbehave can have their tickets revoked and be legally barred from attending games at any English stadium.

Teams affected by the ban

For the duration of the ban arising from the Heysel disaster, 20 teams missed out on the chance to play in the three European competitions. The table below lists these teams, but does not capture the hidden effect of the European ban, in that many of the top players and managers left English teams for the opportunity of playing in Europe, thus weakening the teams they left behind. It is often said by Everton fans that of all the teams affected by the ban the team that suffered most were Liverpool's local rivals, Everton.

Seasons European Cup European Cup Winners' Cup UEFA Cup
1985–86 Everton Manchester United (4th) Liverpool (2nd)
Tottenham Hotspur (3rd)
Southampton (5th)
Norwich City (League Cup Winners (20th))
1986–87 Liverpool Everton (2nd) West Ham United (3rd)
Manchester United (4th)
Sheffield Wednesday (5th)
Oxford United (League Cup Winners (18th))
1987–88 Everton Coventry City (10th) Liverpool (2nd)
Tottenham Hotspur (3rd)
Arsenal (4th) (League Cup Winners)
Norwich City (5th)
1988–89 Liverpool Wimbledon (6th) Manchester United (2nd)
Nottingham Forest (3rd)
Everton (4th)
Luton Town (League Cup Winners (9th))
1989–90 Arsenal Liverpool (2nd) Nottingham Forest (3rd) (League Cup Winners)
Norwich City (4th)
Derby County (5th)
Tottenham Hotspur (6th)
1990–91[27] Liverpool Tottenham Hotspur (3rd)
Arsenal (4th)
Nottingham Forest (League Cup Winners (9th))

For the 1990-91 season, UEFA granted a partial lifting of the European ban as a test, when Aston Villa, who finished second in the First Division, and Manchester United, who won the FA Cup, were given places in the UEFA Cup and Cup Winners' Cup respectively. Even after the ban was lifted, English teams had to wait five seasons before earning back all of the European places which they had held before 1985. The loss of places affected eight teams, who missed qualification for the UEFA Cup until and including the 1994–95 tournament. Some of the above regarding seasons 1985-1989 is hypothetical because places in the UEFA cup were awarded on the basis of how well teams from each country did. Therefore the number places available in 1987-1991 would have been reduced if English teams had been knocked out early in the previous season.

Season Club(s)
1990–91 Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal
1991–92 Crystal Palace, Sheffield Wednesday
1992–93 Arsenal, Manchester City
1993–94 Blackburn Rovers, Queens Park Rangers
1994–95 Leeds United


In 1985, a memorial was presented to the victims at the Juventus headquarters in Piazza Crimea, in Turin. The monument includes an epitaph written by Torinese journalist Giovanni Arpino. Since 2001 it is in front of the current club's headquarter in Corso Galileo Ferraris.[28]

The Kop creates a mosaic saying "Amicizia" ("Friendship")

During Euro 2000, members of the Italian team left flowers on the site, in honor of the victims.

On 29 May 2005, a £140,000 sculpture was unveiled at the new Heysel stadium, to commemorate the disaster. The monument is a sundial designed by French artist Patrick Rimoux and includes Italian and Belgian stone and the poem Funeral Blues by Englishman W. H. Auden to symbolise the sorrow of the three countries. Thirty-nine lights shine, one for each who died that night.[29]

Juventus and Liverpool were drawn together in the quarter-finals of the 2005 Champions League, their first meeting since Heysel. Before the first leg at Anfield, Liverpool fans held up placards to form a banner saying "amicizia" ("friendship" in Italian). Many of the Juventus fans applauded the gesture, although a significant number chose to turn their backs on it.[30] In the return leg in Turin, Juventus fans displayed banners reading Easy to speak, difficult to pardon: murders and 15-4-89. Sheffield. God exists, the latter a reference to the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans were killed in a crush. A number of Liverpool fans were attacked in the city by Juventus ultras.[31]

British composer Michael Nyman wrote a piece called "Memorial" which was originally part of a larger work of the same name written in 1985 in memory of the Juventus fans who died at Heysel Stadium.

On Wednesday 26 May 2010, a permanent plaque was unveiled on the Centenary Stand at Anfield to honor the Juventus fans who died 25 years earlier. This plaque is one of two permanent memorials to be found at Anfield, along with one for the 96 fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

On May 2012 a Heysel Memorial was unveiled in the J-Museum at Turin. There is also a tribute to the disaster's victims in the club's Walk of Fame in front of the Juventus Stadium. Two years latter Juventus' officials announced a memorial in the Continassa headquarter.

On February 2014, an exhibition in Turin was dedicated both to the Heysel tragedy and Superga air disaster. The name of the exhibition was "Settanta angeli in un unico cielo – Superga e Heysel tragedie sorelle" (70 angels in the same sky – Superga and Heysel sister tragedies) and gathered material from the 4th of May 1949 and the 29th of May 1985. [32]


The 39 people killed were 32 Italians (including 2 minors), four Belgians, two French fans and one from Northern Ireland.[33][34]
Name Age
Rocco Acerra 29
Bruno Balli 50
Alfons Bos 35
Giancarlo Bruschera 21
Andrea Casula 11
Giovanni Casula 44
Nino Cerullo 24
Willy Chielens 41
Giuseppina Conti 17
Dirk Daenecky 38
Dionisio Fabbro 51
Jacques François 45
Eugenio Gagliano 35
Francesco Galli 24
Giancarlo Gonnelli 20
Alberto Guarini 21
Giovacchino Landini 50
Roberto Lorentini 31
Barbara Lusci 58
Franco Martelli 22
Loris Messore 28
Gianni Mastroiaco 20
Sergio Bastino Mazzino 38
Luciano Rocco Papaluca 38
Luigi Pidone 31
Benito Pistolato 50
Patrick Radcliffe 38
Antonio Ragnanese 49
Claude Robert ?
Mario Ronchi 43
Domenico Russo 28
Tarcisio Salvi 49
Gianfranco Sarto 47
Amedeo Giuseppe Spolaore 55
Mario Spanu 41
Tarcisio Venturin 23
Jean Michel Walla 32
Claudio Zavaroni 28

See also


  1. ^ metrowebukmetro (2012-09-06). "Alessandro Del Piero 'turned down Liverpool move due to Heysel' | Metro News". Retrieved 2014-04-22. 
  2. ^ "Heysel: Liverpool and Juventus remember disaster that claimed 39 lives". mirror. 
  3. ^ "Liverpool — History — Heysel disaster". BBC. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "Heysel, 27 Years On – Book Extract | The Tomkins Times | News, Opinion, Statistics and Discussion about Liverpool FC Football Club". The Tomkins Times. Retrieved 2014-04-22. 
  5. ^ Quote from UEFA Chief Executive Lars-Christer Olsson in 2004,
  6. ^ "UEFA Team Coefficients 1983/1984". Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  7. ^ (Falkiner 2012)
  8. ^ Evans, Tony (5 April 2005). "Our day of shame". The Times (London). Retrieved 24 May 2006. 
  9. ^ a b Enrico Sisti (28 May 2010). "Il calcio cambiò per sempre" (in Italian).  
  10. ^ "LFC Story 1985". Liverpool Official Website. Archived from the original on 20 May 2006. Retrieved 24 May 2006. 
  11. ^ Ducker, James; Dart, Tom (19 March 2005). "Night of mayhem in Brussels that will never be forgotten". The Times (London). Retrieved 24 May 2006. 
  12. ^ Kelso, Paul (2 April 2005). "Liverpool still torn over night that shamed their name". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 24 May 2006. 
  13. ^ "The Heysel disaster". BBC News. 29 May 2000. Retrieved 15 June 2006. 
  14. ^ a b Hussey, Andrew (3 April 2005). "Lost lives that saved a sport". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 15 June 2006. 
  15. ^ "1985: Fans die in Heysel rioting". BBC News. 29 May 1985. Retrieved 24 May 2006. 
  16. ^ "Geschiedenis 24 - Heizeldrama". 2010-11-17. Retrieved 2014-04-22. 
  17. ^ Graham (1985, p. 55)
  18. ^ "Nie dla Bońka na stadionie Juventusu". 
  19. ^ Reilly, Thomas (1996). "Science and Soccer". E & FN Spon. pp. 316; 320.  
  20. ^ James Arangüera (7 June 1985). "Um trófeu para ser esquecido" (in Portuguese).  
  21. ^ Camerani, Francesco (2003). Le verità sull'Heysel. Cronaca di una strage annunciata (in Italian). Taylor & Francis. pp. 135–136.  
  22. ^ "Thatcher set to demand FA ban on games in Europe". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 27 May 2006. 
  23. ^ Jackson, Jamie (3 April 2005). "The witnesses". The Observer (London). Retrieved 27 May 2006. 
  24. ^ "Liverpool fans mar service for riot victims". The Sydney Morning Herald. 19 August 1985. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  25. ^ Crime | Home Office
  26. ^ [ARCHIVED CONTENT] Football disorder | Home Office
  27. ^ Aston Villa and Manchester United entered Europe
  28. ^ "Una foto del monumento a Torino" (in Italian). Retrieved 3 June 2010. 
  29. ^ White, Duncan (30 May 2005). "Anniversary monument honors Heysel dead". The Times (London). Retrieved 30 August 2006. 
  30. ^ "Mixed reactions to Heysel homage". BBC News. 6 April 2005. Retrieved 15 June 2006. 
  31. ^ "Taunts and trouble mar Juve's attempts to deal with the past". The Independent. 14 April 2005. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  32. ^ Heysel and Superga: Juve and Toro's pain finally united in an exhibition
  33. ^ "Heysel stadium disaster film is planned". BBC News. 17 May 2011. 
  34. ^ The 39 victims who died at Heysel Stadium

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