Philadelphia sports fans have a reputation for bad behavior. I mean who else but a Philly fan flings snowballs at Santa Claus? Or makes fun of a 13-year-old singing the national anthem? Or boos 3-year-olds for not finding all the Easter eggs “hidden” in the outfield of Veteran’s Stadium?
Boorish as that behavior may be, it pales in comparison to the antics of English soccer hooligans. In fact is was 25 years ago this week when the Union of European Football Associations banned all English soccer clubs from competing in Europe because of the English fans’ behavior.
The ban was the result of a May 29, 1985 soccer match between Juventus Football Club of Turin, Italy, and Liverpool Football Club of England. Juventus and Liverpool are two of the most successful clubs in Europe and were competing for the 1985 European Cup.
Shortly before the 7:30 p.m. match began at Brussels’ Heysel Stadium, a group of Liverpool fans — fueled by an all-day drinking binge — rushed a group of Juventus fans. During the chaos, a stadium wall collapsed killing 32 Juventus fans and 7 Belgian bystanders, while injuring hundreds.
Juventus went on to win the match, 1-0. On June 2, 1985, All English soccer clubs were banned for 5 years from competing in the Champions League and contending for the European Cup. It was a devestating blow to English soccer. Prior to the ban, English clubs had won 7 of the previous 8 European Cups.
Liverpool was banned indefinitely from European play. The punishment was reduced to 10 years, before being further reduced to 6 years.
In all 14 Liverpool fans were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 1989 and sentenced to 3 years in jail.