English Teams Won’t Play on Continent Next Season
The governing board of the English Football (soccer) Assn. announced Friday that English teams will be barred from playing in Europe during the 1985-86 season because of the riot started by Liverpool fans Wednesday in Brussels that left 38 dead and hundreds injured.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said it was the right decision and that she was pleased with it.
“There are so many dead people and so many injured people as a result of the actions of our citizens that it requires very firm decisions and very firm measures,” she said.
She said the British people will agree with the decision because they are appalled by what happened in Brussels, where fans of the Liverpool soccer team rushed supporters of the Juventus team of Turin, Italy.
In Liverpool on Friday, a requiem Mass was celebrated at the Roman Catholic cathedral for the victims, most of whom were Italian.
Transport for Victims
In Brussels, the Belgian government announced that it will provide a military transport plane to bring relatives to the capital to retrieve the victims’ bodies.
And the Belgian government confirmed a decision announced Thursday by the interior minister, Charles-Ferdinand Nothomb, to ban “until further notice” the appearance on Belgian playing fields of any British soccer team. The ban includes amateur teams as well as the professional clubs, and the Belgians made it clear that it includes not just English teams, as decreed by the football association, but all British teams--from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Also in Brussels, Louis Wouters, president of the Belgian Football Union, denied a report on Belgian state television that Juventus was allowed to win the match that followed the rioting. Juventus defeated Liverpool 1-0.
The French-language RTBF station had interrupted its regular news broadcast to quote “absolutely reliable sources” that a decision to allow Juventus to win was taken at a meeting of European and Belgian soccer authorities with officials of the two teams.
Belgian police reportedly found six bullets at the riot scene. However, the public prosecutor’s office said autopsies showed no evidence that any of the dead were killed by bullet or knife wounds.
In England, there was continued argument about responsibility for the Brussels incident. Some Liverpool officials blamed members of the the National Front, a neo-fascist organization with strong racist and anti-foreign bias. National Front officials denied that the organization was in any way involved.
The English clubs barred from sending teams to Europe will suffer significant financial losses as a result. Such matches account for substantial revenues.
Among the clubs affected are Everton, the other major Liverpool team, which won the English League championship this year; Manchester United, which won the Football Assn. cup, and four others that qualified for the European Cup playoffs--Liverpool, Tottenham, Norwich and Southampton.
Liverpool soccer officials had decided separately that, because of the Brussels incident, the team would not take part in any European contests next season.
John Smith, chairman of the Liverpool soccer club, said: “It is a very sad occasion for Liverpool after 21 years with an unblemished record. It will mean a terrific loss of revenue.”
‘Totally Unacceptable Behavior’
The Football Assn.'s statement said: “It is now up to English football to put its house in order through the total cooperation of the league clubs and the government to ensure that this totally unacceptable behavior of English supporters at home and abroad becomes a thing of the past. We know that the vast majority of the British public will support us in our all-out endeavor to achieve this object.”
Neil Kinnock, leader of the opposition Labor Party, said the Conservative government’s policies were at least partly to blame for the incident. The “unemployment and hopelessness” brought on by Conservative policies, he said, contributed to the soccer violence.
Kinnock said that as long as the government gives no priority to dealing with unemployment, especially among the young, there is little hope for long-term improvement. And he disagreed with Thatcher’s approval of the self-imposed ban on playing in European matches.
“If the tribute we pay to these thugs is to reduce the freedom of thousands of other football supporters, then the thugs will have won,” he said.