The mid-1980s are often characterised as a period of success, excess and the shoulder-padded dress. In the political sphere this is exemplified by the image of Margaret Thatcher’s Government serenely overcoming a variety of challenges, while also developing a booming economy. The release of files from 1985 and 1986 today at The National Archives show that perception to be a little over-stated. Concerns over a lack of control of public expenditure and interest rates, stubbornly high unemployment rates, and the possibility of a miners’ strike in the winter of 1986/87 demonstrated a government striving to overcome a raft of difficult problems.
Amongst those problems were the connected but distinct issues of football hooliganism and fan safety in stadiums. Shocking events were often played out on prime time television which led some to see the issue of hooliganism as a visual representation of a country suffering from ‘social instability’. 1 Fans of Millwall and Luton Town rampaged in mid-March 1985 and – at the European Cup final in Brussels in May between Liverpool and Juventus of Italy – fans ran amok and the collapse of a wall lead to 39 deaths. The issue of stadium infrastructure came to national attention with the horrific fire at Bradford City’s Valley Parade on May 11 1985 in which 56 supporters died.