Heysel Stadium Disaster (1985): Chronology, Arrests, & Sanctions

The Heysel Stadium disaster was a confrontation among Liverpool and Juventus fans just before the kick-off of the 1985 European Cup (now Champions League) finals.

On 29/05/1985, Liverpool and Juventus were battling it out at the European Cup finals at Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium. 

Team’s Form

Liverpool was defending the Cup win after winning the 1984 European Cup final against Roma. The reds had also finished second in the premier league after Everton.

On the other side, Juventus’ Michel Platini was the world’s best player after winning Balon d’Or in 1983 and 1984. 

Based on the above form, either of the team was confident they would win the finals.

Over 60,000 Liverpool and Juventus fans had traveled mostly from England and Italy respectively to cheer their teams. 

Little did they know this day will turn out to become one of the darkest days in the history books of football.

Why a dark day?

A confrontation between Liverpool and Juventus fans 45 minutes the kick-off in Block Z terraces left 39 fans dead. 

You are wondering why did the fight occur? Who fought whom? Why didn’t the police prevent the fight? Did the game continue? What was the fine? 

 We have all details of how the Heysel Stadium disaster ensued in this article 

Ensure you read through to the conclusion to understand the circumstances. 

The Heysel Stadium condition

Like any other football match, there were separate terraces reserved for the two teams. 

Terraces to the south were reserved for Italian fans while the Northern terraces were reserved for the England fans.

Separating the two were the neutral terraces reserved for neutral fans. 

Generally, a football stadium should be in a safe condition before any match.

However, according to witnesses, this was not the case in Heysel Stadium for two security risks. 

First, the two terraces blocks were separated by wire mesh. A properly designed stadium has a wall or an aisle separating the fans.

Secondly, some witnesses report that there was loose cement debris lying around the stadium which posed a security risk. 

Anyway, gates opened at 5 pm, 3 hours before kick-off. Fans started streaming in and taking their seats on their respective terraces. 

Tension Building

Signs of a possible confrontation in block Z terraces started early. Observers report that Liverpool fans in Block Z severally provoked Juventus fans across the wire mesh.

As a result, the tension was slowly building up around Block Z.  

Juventus players arrived at the stadium at 6:15 pm, 2 hours before kick-off. 

As usual, the players warm in the field before going back to the dressing room. Juventus fans cheered their players which provoked Liverpool fans. 

 Just when Juventus players were leaving the field towards the dressing room at around 6:30 pm, confrontations broke out in Block Z corner. 

The confrontation

Liverpool fans started throwing stones towards Juventus fans terraces across the wire mesh. 

As a result, Juventus fans started running for safety in different directions.  

The majority of the fans escaped through the field track around the stadium to take refuge on other Juventus stands.

Another group of fans took safety in one corner of Block Z greatly injuring one another.

Other Juventus fans were climbing and jumping off the stadium perimeter wall for safety.

At 7:30 pm, the perimeter wall in Block Z finally collapsed. Many believe it is the collapse that killed and injured most of the Juventus fans.

Contrarily, other fans believe the collapse of the wall was a blessing in disguise since it helped many Juventus fans escape the stadium.

By the end of the confrontations, 39 fans had died and over 600 sustained injuries. Ironically, despite televisions reporting 39 deaths to the world, the fans in the field were not aware of any deaths.

Instead, the communication going around the field was that only a few people were injured. Remember there was no mobile phone at the time.

One group of the police evacuated the bodies to a tent within the stadium to prevent fans from discovering the deaths.

Other police were in the stadium calming the fans to prevent any further confrontations.

Executive Meeting

As the police tried to calm the fans, the executive meeting was underway in the VIP section to decide on the fate of the match.

Juventus coaches, players, and executives were not ready to play after they learned their fans had died. In fact, they were ready to leave.

However, executives in the meeting convinced the Juventus manager that it was safer for the match to continue than to abandon it.

Therefore, the match eventually kicked off. 

The match. 

The first half ended in a barren draw. During the second half, Juventus would win a controversial penalty and score.

Juventus won the match by one goal to nil. It was the first Juventus European Cup win since the history of the club.

To avert any further confrontation, police escorted Liverpool fans out of the stadium immediately after the last whistle.

On the other hand, the police allowed Juventus fans to remain in the stadium to celebrate their club’s first-ever European Cup win.

Criminal investigations and trials

Investigations into who was culpable for violence continued for 18 months after the game. Investigators reviewed films then questioned police, stadium owners, and the match organizers. 

The investigation led to the arrest of 34 Liverpool fans who were most culpable. In April 1989, the 34 were convicted of manslaughter and jailed for 3 years. 

Heysel Stadium Disaster Sanctions

UEFA banned England from participating in the European Cup for five years. Additionally, UEFA extended Liverpool ban for one more year to six years for causing the disaster. 

Conclusion

The Heysel Stadium disaster was a fight among Liverpool and Juventus fans just before the 1985 European Cup final kick-off.  

The confrontation resulted in a collapse of the perimeter wall in Block Z. 

 By the end of the confrontations, 39 fans died and over 600 others sustained injuries. 

Despite the tension, the game continued and Juventus won by a single goal. 

A trial 3 years later led to 34 arrests and convicted 14 Liverpool fans and jailed for 3 years.

UEFA banned England from participating in the Champions League for 5 years.

Liverpool was banned for six years.

Share:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.