Interwoven tragedies: Hillsborough, Heysel and denial

Robert Steen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At the Heysel Stadium in Brussels in 1985, 39 Juventus supporters were killed, primarily as a consequence of a charge by drunken opposition fans. Four years later, at Hillsborough, Sheffield, more than twice as many spectators were crushed to death, primarily as a result of police contempt for the hooligan minority. That both tragedies involved Liverpool followers - 96 of whom died at Hillsborough - is the unhappiest, most divisive, most problematic of coincidences. Yet while it would be naïve, at best, to deny any other connection, the long-running inquiry into the Hillsborough tragedy has bred denial about Heysel, and not exclusively among Liverpool supporters. Further hampered by the reluctance of Juventus to desecrate the club's first European Cup final triumph by reopening old wounds, debate has been stifled. To suggest that the fatal charge at Heysel might have contributed to the unconscionable behaviour of the police at Hillsborough, or that the fences that contributed so heavily to the deaths would not have been there but for pitch invasions, is to wade into toxic waters. Written to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Heysel tragedy, this paper investigates the various ‘truths', interviews witnesses and addresses the inherent contradictions of ‘The Tragedy That Dare Not Speak Its Name'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-266
Number of pages13
JournalSport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics on 14/09/2015, available online:


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