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Anorak | Football must have no minute’s silence for Margaret Thatcher: what madman wants to remember the 1980s?

Football must have no minute’s silence for Margaret Thatcher: what madman wants to remember the 1980s?

by | 9th, April 2013

Politics - Margaret Thatcher and England footballers - 1980

THE best thing you can say about Margaret Thatcher’s attitude to football was that she rarely used it to coin easy popularity. To her, football was a thing that needed controlling. Football to Thatcher was a threat to the social order. The Sunday Times said football was a “slum sport watched by slum people in slum stadiums”.

So. Football will not mark her passing in any special way. There was no minute’s silence for the former Prime Minister at Old Trafford last night as Manchester United took on Manchester City. Good. The minute’s silence has become the most overused tribute going.

Photo above:  Margaret Thatcher sharing a joke with England footballers, left to right, Kevin Keegan, Terry McDermott, Phil Thompson and Emlyn Hughes and other members of the international squad outside 10 Downing Street when they were leaving after attending a reception given by Mrs Thatcher. Date: 05/06/1980

This was not snub. Maggie Thatcher (once an honorary vice-president of Blackburn Rovers) was the Prime Minister when English football was in the mire.

Soccer - Canon League Division Three - Bradford City v Lincoln City - Valley Parade

Photo: Screen shot from ITN News showing the fire that swept through the main stand at Bradford City’s football ground. The club were playing Lincoln City in the last match of the season. 56 people died and 265 were injured as a fire swept the packed stand just before half-time.

On May 11 1985, 15-year-old Ian Hambridge left his Northampton home to see his first football match. Birmingham City Football Club were playing Leeds United. A riot saw 80 fans and 96 police officers injured. Ian was stood by a 12 ft high wall, which collapsed. You might have read about him. But it’ unlikely. Because on that every day a fire took hold at Bradford City’s ground killing 56 people.

A short time later, on May 29, Liverpool played Juventus in the European Cup Final at Belgium’s Heysel stadium. Another riot. Another wall collapsed. 39 Italian fans died in the mayhem. English clubs were banned from European competitions.

Soccer - European Cup - Final - Liverpool v Juventus - Heysel Stadium

In a era of lows, the infamous footage of Millwall fans rioting at Luton Town stands out.

Thatcher’s Government assed the The Football Spectators Act of 1989. It made ID cards compulsory. To be a football fan you needed to carry ID. You were no longer a citizen of a free democracy. You were a pariah the State wanted to control. Margaret Thatcher, regarded football fans as the enemy within” .

Thatcher ordered Justice Oliver Popplewell to investigate football. He suggested fences to keep the fans from the pitch.

Bradford City Chairman and Inquiry Judge at Fire Stand

Bradford City FC chairman Stafford Heginbotham (left) with Mr Justice Popplewell, in front of the stand which was burnt at Bradford’s Valley Parade ground. The 57-year old judge spent more than half-an-hour touring the ground. He headed the inquiry into the blaze.

Chelsea chairman Ken Bates suggested electrifying it. If it was good enough for his cattle, it was good enough for football fans. (The GLC prevented Bates from plugging it in.)

Ken Bates next to electric fence

1985: Chelsea chairman, Ken Bates, indicating the controversial anti-hooligan 12-volt electric wire

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Posted: 9th, April 2013 | In: Politicians, Sports Comments (3) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink