A history of dying

Anfield, 15 April 2014.  Photo ©Przemek Niciejewski.

Anfield, 15 April 2014.
Photo ©Przemek Niciejewski.

Earlier this month Liverpool FC commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster, where 96 football supporters died.

No-one deserves to die at a football match. Yet despite the lessons learned from stadium tragedies, supporters continue to die in avoidable circumstances.

Ibrox, 1902: 25 dead in a stadium collapse.

Burnden Park, 1946: 33 dead in a stadium crush.

Estadio Nacional, 1964: 320 dead in a stampede and crush.

El Monumental (Puerta 12), 1968: over 70 dead in an exit crush.

Ibrox, 1971: 66 dead in a stairwell crush.

Luzniki (Central Lenin Stadium), 1982: 66 dead in a stairwell crush.

Valley Parade, 1985: 56 dead in a stadium fire.

Heysel Stadium, 1985: 39 dead in a stadium crush.

Kathmandu Stadium, 1988: 93 dead in an exit crush.

Oppenheimer Stadium, 1991: 42 dead in stampedes and a stadium crush.

Stade de Furiani, 1992: 18 dead in a stadium collapse.

Estadio Mateo Flores, 1996: 83 dead in stadium crush.

Ellis Park Stadium, 2001: 43 dead in stampede and stadium crush.

Lubumbashi, 2001: 14 dead in a stampede.

Accra Sports Stadium, 2001: 127 dead following a stampede.

Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny, 2009: 19 dead in a stampede.

Port Said Stadium, 2012: 79 dead following a riot.

This list is by no means complete. Supporters died at Ibrox in a stairwell crush in 1961, and there are many other such incidents that should have served as warnings to football authorities – the terrifying crush at the Leppings Lane end during the Spurs-Wolves FA Cup Semi Final in 1981, for example – years before major tragedies occurred.

It is common to hear footballers (of various codes), along with commentators and pundits, making comparisons between football and war. It is true that footballers have died on the field (the poignant Football’s Fallen website chronicles many such deaths) but perhaps the true risk to life and limb is in the stands of unsafe, decaying stadiums. Is human life so cheap?

In recent times the focus has shifted to the deaths of construction workers, who are building what we hope will be safe, modern stadiums for future football tournaments. Who benefits from the use of such cheap and seemingly disposable labour? The supporters?

Wherever you are, whatever game you’re watching, stay safe. And let us not forget those ordinary people who went to a football match and never returned home.