England’s ruling Football Assn. today pulled all English soccer clubs out of European competition next season as a self-imposed penalty for the “totally unacceptable behavior” of English fans who left 38 dead in a Brussels riot.
“This was the most terrible decision I have ever had to make,” association Chairman Bert Millichip told reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at her 10 Downing St. office.
“Football is the national game. . . . (But) it was very, very important for the FA to take positive action immediately.”
Thatcher applauded the ruling. “I think it is the right decision,” she said. “The whole of Britain is appalled at what happened. . . . They will applaud this decision.”
‘These Terrible Events’
The prime minister acknowledged that many innocent fans will suffer. But she added: “This is what happens when these terrible events occur.”
The association’s withdrawal order applies to all English club teams, Millichip said. It does not apply to the English national team, currently on tour in Mexico. It also will not affect club teams or the national teams of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The association’s action came amid widespread calls for Europe’s ruling soccer body, UEFA, to ban English clubs.
Fans of England’s Liverpool soccer team triggered Wednesday night’s riot, the worst ever at a European game, by charging into a section filled with backers of Juventus, an Italian team from Turin. In the ensuing melee, a concrete retaining wall collapsed, crushing to death many of the victims. Others were trampled.
Most of the victims were Italian.
Will Seek New Laws
Thatcher told reporters that she will press for passage of new anti-soccer hooliganism legislation by Parliament in time for the fall start of the soccer season.
She said this should include a ban in England on the consumption of alcohol at stadiums. A similar ban introduced in Scotland in 1980 was accompanied by a sharp fall in fan violence.
The Belgian government, meanwhile, announced its own ban on visiting British teams, including those of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland--professional or amateur.
In addition to Liverpool, five other English club teams were due to play in Europe next season.
Jacques Georges, head of the European Union of Football Assns., the governing body of European soccer, indicated that the executive committee of his 34-nation group may take further action against British clubs at a July meeting.