The English disease: How Leeds and Millwall fans were the scourge of football, by Hillsborough coroner

LEEDS United and Millwall were singled out by the coroner in the Hillsborough inquests today as he described hooliganism as the 'scourge' of football in the 70s and 80s.

Monday, 25th January 2016, 4:24 pm
Updated Monday, 25th January 2016, 4:29 pm
Lord Justice Goldring, the coroner presiding over the fresh inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

Sir John Goldring said no one claimed hooligans caused the disaster in which 96 Liverpool supporters died, but the fear of crowd violence did have a “profound” effect on the way grounds were designed and was “relevant” to how police approached football matches at the time of the tragedy, jurors were told.

Sir John said some clubs, naming Leeds United and Millwall, were particularly known for their hooligan following.

And though 14 Liverpool fans were convicted of manslaughter after the Heysel Disaster in May 1985, Liverpool fans were not known for hooliganism.

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Sir John said: “Nobody suggests that the Hillsborough disaster was caused by hooliganism.

“However, we have had to consider this topic.

“There’s no doubt serious hooliganism was a terrible problem in English football in the 1970s and 1980s.

“It was the scourge known as the ‘English Disease’. The fear of hooliganism had a profound effect on football.”

He said the jury should consider how this fear was a “powerful factor” in the overall approach of the police and in the minds of individual officers at matches, with an emphasis on preventing hooliganism.

Concerns about trouble at football games also led to the ban on alcohol in grounds - resulting in fans going to local pubs before the match.

The jury was told hooliganism was relevant because it explained the pens and perimeter fences at Hillsborough, police concerns with public order as oppose to public safety and the overall approach of policing football games.

Jurors were also told about a series of previous crushing incidents, dating back to 1923, when 1,000 people were injured at Wembley Stadium.

In 1946, 33 fans were killed at Bolton’s Burnden Park, 66 fans were killed at Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium in 1971 and in 1981, also at Hillsborough, when 38 were injured in a crush.