Britain Takes Steps to Avert Soccer Riots : Orders Ban on Alcohol on Buses, at Stadiums
The British government Thursday announced sweeping measures, including a ban on alcohol at soccer stadiums and on trains and buses taking fans to games, in an effort to curb the kind of violence that left 38 dead and hundreds injured Wednesday in a Brussels soccer match between British and Italian teams.
Belgian authorities, meanwhile, declared that British soccer teams will be banned indefinitely from playing in Belgium. And soccer specialists speculated here that British teams might be barred from playing anywhere on the Continent in the next year or two.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said she had watched televised reports of the Brussels riot, for which British soccer fans are being blamed, and that “it made my blood boil.” She said the British government will send 250,000 pounds ($317,500) to a disaster fund to help the families of the victims, mostly Italian.
Revised Casualty Toll
An official Belgian list of the 38 dead identified 28 Italians, four Belgians, a Frenchman and a Briton. Four victims had not been identified. The total number of injured was placed at 375. Belgian soccer officials had said earlier that 41 people were killed.
The violence reportedly started when fans of the Liverpool club attacked supporters of the Juventus team of Turin. The two teams are perennially among the best in the world.
Queen Elizabeth II sent messages Thursday to President Sandro Pertini of Italy and King Baudouin I of Belgium declaring that she was shocked and saddened by the riots in Brussels.
In Turin, industrialist Gianni Agnelli, president of Juventus, called the British fans of the Liverpool team “incorrigible hooligans” and called for a day of mourning in the Italian city rather than one of celebration for winning the European Cup, 1-0, over Liverpool. The Turin newspaper La Stampa called the Liverpool fans “authentic criminals.”
Observers said many of the Britons involved in the rioting had been drinking through most of the day, and British and Italian authorities criticized the Brussels police for not being better prepared to handle the crowd of more than 50,000 and for acting in a panicky way once the riot began.
Spectators said Liverpool fans stormed those of Juventus before the match began, pushing them up against a concrete wall, which collapsed. In the resulting hysteria, dozens of spectators were trampled.
Soccer fans returned home to Liverpool on Thursday subdued and shocked.
Barry O’Hara, a supporter of the Liverpool team for 20 years, declared: “I will never travel with Liverpool again. The last time we went abroad, we came back like heroes. This time we have come back in disgrace. I am absolutely ashamed of being a Liverpudlian.”
In London, Thatcher called her Cabinet into session to discuss the disaster.
“No words can adequately express the horror and revulsion which I and millions of British people felt at the scenes of violence which we witnessed at last night’s European Cup final in Brussels,” she said.
“These terrible events have brought shame and disgrace on those responsible and on their country. They never should have happened. It is the thugs who destroy football. I hope that if anyone has any evidence they will come forward.”
Belgian police said Thursday that they arrested about 15 British citizens at the game, but it was not clear what charges will be placed against them.
The Belgian ban on British teams was announced in Brussels by Interior Minister Charles-Ferdinand Nothomb after consultation with the organizers of the championship match.
The cost of a European ban could run to millions of dollars in receipts for the British first-division football teams who compete against European clubs.
The Belgian ban was extended to all teams from Britain, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, although only the English team was involved in the violence.
At the same time, pressure was mounting in Britain to have the English soccer clubs voluntarily withdraw from all European play during the 1985-86 season to preclude a wider European Football Assn. ban on all British teams.
Nothomb acknowledged that there might not have been enough police officers assigned to the game but said Belgians do not want to give up their freedoms for the sake of soccer.
“We do not want to turn Belgium into a police state. Not even for one afternoon.”
At the British Cabinet meeting, measures proposed, aside from the ban on alcohol in stadiums and on buses and trains, included:
--Compulsory membership cards, to be required for admission to games, for all club supporters.
--A ban on alcohol on ferries crossing the English Channel for three days before continental matches.
--Giving police power to transport authorities that will enable them to turn back drunken supporters as ships dock at ports abroad.
Sources close to the prime minister said she hopes the curbs can be voted into law by Parliament before the next soccer season starts at the end of the summer.
Some critics said Wednesday’s game should not have been played, considering the disaster that had just occurred.
Bobby Charlton, a former international star for the England team and now a television commentator, said Thursday: “I don’t think the game should have been played when so many people had been killed. But then again, when you have got 55,000 fans in the stadium, who knows what might have happened if the game had been canceled?”