• Joshua Schneider-Weiler

Were All-Seater Stadiums Built on a Lie? Why Terraces Were Really Abolished

On the 15th April 1989, Hillsborough was the scene of the worst disaster in British football history. That day, 96 people tragically lost their lives, crushed in two small standing areas in the stadium.

Thirty years later and the issue of standing at football remains contentious. 

The Taylor Report, an inquiry into the question of safe spectating at football matches concluded in part that, “Whilst standing accommodation is not intrinsically unsafe, all-seater stadia bring benefits to spectator comfort, safety and crowd control”.

To this day, there are no standing terraces in the top tiers of English football. But this could be about to change. Starting next season Manchester United will trial 1,500 barrier seats that will allow fans to stand after being given permission by Trafford council.

Jon Darch (@SafeStandingRS), who runs the Safe Standing Roadshow, told Jon Mackenzie about how stopping standing at games was a really a tool by the government to limit hooliganism and that he believes people took the wrong conclusions from the Taylor Report.

"Well, I think actually standing in stadiums was under threat even before Hillsborough. The Thatcher government were already looking at it as a means of combating hooliganism, a very blunt instrument to do."

"I think in 1988, perhaps early 89, they would have liked to have brought it in, but didn't think that public opinion would have gone along with the idea. Then Hillsborough happened."

"Hillsborough in effect, gave them, in my personal opinion, the opportunity to bring in the draconian banning of standing on the premise that Hillsborough had been caused by standing."

Darch is saying that while everyone concluded from the Taylor report that standing at games was the issue, it wasn't. The report said, 'standing accommodation is not intrinsically unsafe'.

"Now we all know, of course, the Taylor Report said it wasn't, the independent panel report said it wasn't, the coroner's verdict said that it wasn't. So we know that was a lie."

"But it served a purpose of the Thatcher government in the same way that they were trying that spring and that summer to introduce a national ID card scheme where every football fan, whether they were an 80-year-old grandfather or a 10-year-old little girl, wouldn't have to carry an ID card to get into a football game. That blunt instrument was one of their ideas for combating hooliganism and during the process of the Taylor Report when it became obvious he [Lord Justice Taylor] was going to scupper that and say it would actually have that been in place that Hillsborough would have made the congestion outside Lepping's Lane worse than it was, Thatcher put pressure on him to say basically, 'if you're not going to give me my ID card scheme, you must at least give me all-seater stadium'."

"I would suggest probably against his better judgment he conceded and did that. So we've got all-seater stadia, the ruling that we have to have them from 1990 onwards, on the basis of a lie; the lie that Hillsborough was caused by standing, and we all know now that it wasn't."

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