All-Seater Stadiums: How the Hillsborough Disaster could have been avoided

Navigation: Home   Comment   Education   Videos 

How the Hillsborough Disaster Could Have Been Avoided


The disaster could have been avoided with all-seater stadiums, no barriers to the pitch and all-ticketing arrangements.




This page argues that the ideas of the late footballer and football administrator Jimmy Hill could have helped prevent the Hillsborough disaster.  Hill's innovation was to introduce an all-seater stadium at the Coventry City ground in 1981.


All-Seater Stadiums to prevent the Hillsborough Disaster


The Who concert disaster of 1979, was an indication of a tragedy that could occur in an enclosed space. The Heysel Tragedy and the Bradford Fire of 1985 were warnings to the football authorities of an impending disaster.   In particular, policymakers should have learnt from the 1981 FA cup game, between Tottenham and Wolves at the Hillsborough football ground (see below).


The UK government should have imposed all-seater stadiums.  Also, any attempts to damage seating at football grounds should have been punished in the strongest terms.  All of the football grounds, in the top two divisions of English football, should have been required to introduce all-seater stadiums.  This was a policy which was later recommended by the Taylor Report  into the Hillsborough disaster.  


Academics have described the Heysel Tragedy as a policy fiasco  with an inadequate stadium and inexperienced policing contributing to the disaster.  All-seater stadiums, at the higher levels of the game, could have been funded.  Transfer fees could have been used to fund sitting room for fans to maintain spectator safety. The money which was spent on football transfers led to an extremely poor allocation of resources in British society.

The Need to Prioritise Safety


Conclusions can be drawn from the Hillsborough Disaster.  Crowd control, with the installation of barriers, was mistakenly prioritised over crowd safety.  After the 1981 football season, there was a fundamental need to remove barriers at football grounds.  Also, football matches needed to be 'all ticket' where tickets had to be bought before the game and seating had to be reserved.  All tickets needed to be sold by 12:00 and anyone without tickets needed to requested to leave the vicinity of the ground.


The arguments presented here are made in hindsight.  However, there were complaints arising from the 1981 FA Cup game.  These grievances were overlooked given that the 1989 disaster occurred.  Lessons have to be learnt from complaints and from the experience of previous disasters or near-disasters.  The 1981 FA cup game can be seen as a near-disaster.  Also, the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London occurred in the aftermath of residents complaints over safety.   




Concerns over safety need to be acknowledged so that policymakers can learn from disasters and near disasters.  Such learning would provide the basis for specific policy guidance into how to avoid future disasters.  This would be a vital first step that needs to be undertaken before any economic appraisal is considered; such as a survey asking the public how much they would be willing to pay for safety programmes.

Video of Hillsborough from 1981: Wolves vs Tottenham (FA Cup semi-final game)

YouTube Video

Video of Hillsborough from 1981: Wolves vs Tottenham (FA Cup semi-final game)

YouTube Video