Standing terraces in England were phased out in 1989 after Lord Justice Taylor’s report into the Hillsborough disaster. During an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, ninety-six Liverpool fans were killed because of over-crowding.
However, unlike the Heysel Stadium disaster of 1985 this tragedy didn’t occur because of hooliganism, as there was no violence between the two sets of fans. This incident was solely down to congestion. Thousands of fans travelling to the game were late due to traffic on the roads and delays to the railway, however nobody at the ground thought it appropriate to delay the 3pm kick off time. As a result many fans hurriedly entered the ground at the same time to avoid missing any further action. Unfortunately no effort was made to relieve the overcrowding, such as opening large gates. No entrances were sealed off and none of the fans were redirected to safer areas. This along with the ineffectiveness and slowness of the police to react resulted in nearly 100 deaths.
Immediately after the Hillsborough Disaster, the Home Office set up an inquiry under Lord Justice Taylor. It’s remit was: “To inquire into the events at Sheffield Wednesday Football ground on 15th April 1989 and to make recommendations about the needs of crowd control and safety at sports events”. The inquiry, which was held in Sheffield, began on the15th May 1989 and lasted thirty-one days.
The Taylor Report recommended that all top division stadiums in England and Scotland phase out their concrete terraces and become all-seater. The result of this report has seen millions of pounds spent by every top club in these countries on developing their grounds. While many fans have complained that the elimination of the standing terraces has ruined the atmosphere at matches, it seems clear that all-seater stadiums are far safer as it is easier to manage spectators if each ticket sold is for a specific seat.
All-seater stadiums have resulted in cases of football hooliganism decreasing significantly, meaning that incidents of violence inside football grounds have become almost non-existent. In addition, arrests for football-related crimes have reduced dramatically since the late 1980’s whilst attendances have risen steadily.
The Taylor report wasn’t the only testimony to address spectator safety inside football grounds. That same year the government addressed the incidents of 1985 (The Heysel Disaster) and 1986 (The Bradford Fire) and introduced the Football Spectators Act.
The main proposals of the Act, suggested the compulsory distribution of identity cards to every football fan attending league, cup and international matches played in England and Wales. Under this system it would be possible to identify any known football hooligans and prevent them from entering stadiums. This system was first experimented with throughout the sixties and seventies, with clubs using their own membership schemes.
Even before the Football Spectators act had been introduced, the Football Association had come to an agreement with the government to implement membership schemes at every club in the football league. This was down to the Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher) vigorously supporting the use of identity cards and signalling it out as the most effective way of preventing football violence.
Despite the government endorsing the scheme, only thirteen of the ninety-two English league clubs implemented the use of identity cards by the initial deadline date. Indeed, it was not only clear that the football clubs did not support the scheme it was also clear that the police were not in favour of the system. A survey of police views on membership schemes revealed that a massive 40% did not favour them.
In any event Lord Justice Taylor condemned the scheme himself, in his report after the Hillsborough disaster. This combined with the clubs and police reluctance to agree to the scheme meant that it was never fully implemented or made compulsory.