Wednesday May 29, 1985 to Wednesday May 29, 1985
Brussels, BelgiumThe Heysel Stadium Events occurred on 29 May 1985 when mostly Juventus fans escaping from a breach by Liverpool fans were pressed against a collapsing wall in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, before the start of the 1985 European Cup Final between the Italian and English clubs. 39 people—mostly Italians and Juventus fans—were killed and 600 were injured in the confrontation.
The 1983–84 season of the European Cup Winners' Cup was won by Juventus in a final against Porto. The next year, the club went on to complete a full complement of European trophies with the European Cup. Universitatea Craiova, winners of the 1983 Romanian Cup Final, were denied entry as the Romanian Football Federation scheduled the final for the week after the closing date for entries. As a result, both the president, Andrei Rădulescu, and secretary, Florin Dumitrescu, of the Romanian FA were sacked.
The 1984 European Cup Final was an association football match between Liverpool of England and Roma of Italy on 30 May 1984 at the Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy. It was the final match of the 1983–84 season of Europe's premier cup competition, the European Cup. Liverpool were appearing in their fourth final, having won the competition in 1977, 1978 and 1981. Roma were appearing in their first European Cup final.
The 1984 European Super Cup was an association football match between Italian team Juventus and English team Liverpool, which took place on 16 January 1985 at the Stadio Comunale. The match was the annual European Super Cup contested between the winners of the European Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup. At the time, the European Super Cup was generally a two-legged fixture, but only the first leg (in Turin) was played, due to fixture congestion.
In May 1985, Liverpool were the defending European Champions' Cup winners, having won the competition after defeating Roma in the penalty shootout in the final of the previous season. Again they would face Italian opposition, Juventus, who had won, unbeaten, the 1983–84 Cup Winners' Cup. Juventus had a team consisting of many of Italy's 1982 FIFA World Cup winning team — who played for Juventus for many years — and their playmaker Michel Platini was considered the best footballer in Europe, being named Footballer of The Year by France Football magazine for the second year in a row in December 1984. Both teams were placed in the two first positions in the UEFA club ranking at the end of the last season and were regarded by the specialist press as the best two sides on the continent at the time. Both teams had contested the 1984 European Super Cup four months before, finishing with victory for the Italian side by 2–0.
At approximately 7 p.m. local time, an hour before kick-off, the trouble started. The Liverpool and Juventus supporters in sections X and Z stood merely yards apart. The boundary between the two was marked by temporary chain link fencing and a central thinly policed no-man's land. Hooligans began to throw stones across the divide, which they were able to pick up from the crumbling terraces beneath them. As kick-off approached, the throwing became more intense. Several groups of Liverpool hooligans broke through the boundary between section X and Z, overpowered the police, and charged at the Juventus fans. The fans began to flee toward the perimeter wall of section Z. The wall could not withstand the force of the fleeing Juventus supporters and a lower portion collapsed. Contrary to reports at the time, and what is still assumed by many, the collapse of the wall did not cause the 39 deaths. Instead, the collapse relieved pressure and allowed fans to escape. Most died of suffocation after tripping or being crushed against the wall before the collapse. A further 600 fans were also injured. Bodies were carried out from the stadium on sections of iron fencing and laid outside, covered with giant football flags. As police and medical helicopters flew in, the down-draught blew away the modest coverings. In retaliation for the events in section Z, many Juventus fans rioted at their end of the stadium. They advanced down the stadium running track to help other Juventus supporters, but police intervention stopped the advance. A large group of Juventus fans fought the police with rocks, bottles, and stones for two hours. One Juventus fan was also seen firing a starting gun at Belgian police.
Despite the scale of the disaster, UEFA officials, Belgian Prime Minister Wilfried Martens, Brussels Mayor Hervé Brouhon, and the city's police force felt that abandoning the match would have risked inciting further trouble and violence, and the match eventually kicked off after the captains of both sides spoke to the crowd and appealed for calm. Juventus won the match 1–0 thanks to a penalty scored by Michel Platini, awarded by Swiss referee Daina for a foul against Zbigniew Boniek.
The blame for the incident was laid on the fans of Liverpool FC. On 30 May official UEFA observer Gunter Schneider said, "Only the English fans were responsible. Of that there is no doubt." UEFA, the organiser of the event, the owners of Heysel Stadium and the Belgian police were investigated for culpability. After an 18-month investigation, the dossier of top Belgian judge Marina Coppieters was finally published. It concluded that blame should rest solely with the English fans.
Pressure mounted to ban English clubs from European competition. On 31 May 1985, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher asked the FA to withdraw English clubs from European competition before they were banned, but two days later, UEFA banned English clubs for "...An indeterminate period of time".
In 1985, a memorial was presented to the victims at the Juventus headquarters in Piazza Crimea, Turin. The monument includes an epitaph written by Torinese journalist Giovanni Arpino. Since 2001 it has been situated in front of the current club's headquarters in Corso Galileo Ferraris.
A total of 34 people were arrested and questioned with 26 Liverpool fans being charged with manslaughter – the only extraditable offence applicable to events at Heysel. An extradition hearing in London in February–March 1987 ruled all 26 were to be extradited to stand trial in Belgium for the death of Juventus fan Mario Ronchi. In September 1987 they were extradited and formally charged with manslaughter applying to all 39 deaths and further charges of assault. Initially, all were held at a Belgian prison but over the subsequent months judges permitted their release as the start of the trial became ever more delayed.
The trial eventually got underway in October 1988, with three Belgians also standing trial for their role in the disaster: Albert Roosens, the head of the Belgian Football Association, for allowing tickets for the Liverpool section of the stadium to be sold to Juventus fans; and two police chiefs — Michel Kensier and Johann Mahieu — who were in charge of policing at the stadium that night. Two of the 26 Liverpool fans were in custody in Britain at the time and stood trial later.
After Belgian prosecutors appealed the sentences as too lenient, an appeal took place in Spring 1990 that increased the sentences of 11 fans (to four or five years), with two having their sentences upheld and one being acquitted.
On Wednesday 26 May 2010, a permanent plaque was unveiled on the Centenary Stand at Anfield to honour the Juventus fans who died 25 years earlier. This plaque is one of two permanent memorials to be found at Anfield, along with one for the 96 fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.