Lord Pendry was at the heart of Westminster politics in the late-1980s at a time when English football was under-going a dramatic transformation. In this extract from his new book, Taking It On The Chin: Memoirs of a Parliamentary Bruiser, he shares what went on behind the scenes...
During the Thatcher regime of the 1980’s many issues which effected football supporters in particular took place. Firstly, the Bradford city fire in May 1985 which killed 56 people and injured 265.
More horrors were to come however at Hillsborough in April 1989, where tragically, 96 people died and over 700 fans were injured at the Liverpool vs Nottingham Forest game. After much covering up by the Sheffield police, it has now emerged that no blame was attached to Liverpool supporters – justice eventually arrived but the years that preceded the final verdict were borne by the many of relatives of those who died or who were injured.
Following the tragedies of Heysel, Bradford and Hillsborough there was a great deal of talk about all seated stadia and the Lord Justice Taylor report did recommend them. At first that report also included smaller grounds across all the divisions, but thankfully, the government in the form of David Mellor the Secretary of State for National Heritage (now the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) saw the logic of not including those smaller clubs and as a consequence they were excluded.
The disquiet amongst many fans that the imposition of taking away standing areas completely was considered a draconian measure. Unfortunately we were thwarted, as Arsenal and other clubs had already gone down the routes of all seated stadia grounds. Alas, it was deemed that our proposal was a non-starter because of that. The proposal was not to abandon the idea completely of an all seated area, but to have a sensible section in the ground for a safe standing area.
In ‘Taking it on the Chin’, there are many other important areas of historical importance to the ‘beautiful game’ and I would hope that I would be able to have a further dialogue with the Supporters’ as their voice is of paramount importance in the way ahead.
- Taking It On The Chin: Memoirs of a Parliamentary Bruiser by Biteback Publishing is available to order from Amazon
Thanks to UK Parliament for the image used in this blog. Reproduced here under Creative Commons license.
The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don't necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn't be attributed to the FSF.