With the “recent” (well recent by the standards of how often I update this thing) riots in Britain I thought this might be timely, I was going through a big pile of comics I got the other week and discovered an issue of Roy of the Rovers from 1980 dealing with “the British disease” of football hooligans. The days of mass brawls on the terraces (in fact, the days of terraces full stop!) are so long gone it’s kind of hard to believe they ever existed… showing things can improve! But when this comic came out hooliganism was at it’s height and people must have wondered if things were ever going to get better.
Roy race, as well as being the star of the main story in the comic, was also it’s “editor”.
A full page has been given over to an editorial “by” Roy Race, who for the purposes of the comic “really” existed! He even mentions how his own club, Melchester Rovers, is tackling the hooligan problem. Many of the measures mentioned were being adopted by real teams, and the FA in general – for instance creating all-seater grounds (at the time only one existed in Britain), encouraging the whole family to come and watch the game and banning people convicted of violence. There’s also several harsher suggestions including locking hooligans in their own fenced-off section, and even concentration camps(!)
Another feature of the comic in those days was Roy’s Talk In. There was a phone number that readers could ring and “actually” talk to Roy Race! (or at least a bewildered temp at IPC who has been thrust into a room with a phone and the odd back issue of the comic). Here it’s given a two-page spread with various suggestions recieved from people.
Down the bottom of the page is a picture of a stadium that was to become one of the most infamous names in British football – Hillsborough. Various anti-hooligan measures such as fencing-in the crowds resulted in a fatal crush in 1989 when Liverpool fans crammed into one area of the stadium, and several suffocated. This disaster was also initially blamed on hooligans, with one ambulance driver being told “They’re still fighting” when he tried to drive in. It was this disaster that was the final nail in the coffin for the terraces.
The fences didn’t work but the “identity cards” did, in that various ways are in place to keep convicted hooligans out of future matches.
Five years later English clubs were in fact banned from European competitions because of hooliganism. They were not allowed back until 1990!
Unfortunately Sheffield Wednesday didn’t keep the standing areas closed off. It’s a difficult balancing act between people kicking off outside because they can’t get in and risking violence inside. The balance has thankfully been achieved with a tough “no ticket – no entry, so don’t bother coming!” policy.
Apart from the all-seater stadiums, better crowd control, ticket allocations and CCTV, one of other main reasons that hooliganism died out was that it was made unfashionable. Once hooligans were treated with a “boys will be boys” attitude, but nowadays anybody boasting about starting a fight among decent football fans will find themselves in Coventry pretty quickly! I bet “Roy” didn’t see that coming despite jokingly suggesting it.
One place hooligans aren’t mentioned in this issue is the Roy of the Rover strip itself! That features Roy trying to get hold of a new goalkeeper. However the manager of the other team wants a whole two million for his best custodian, which is way too much!
Hooligans had featured in the strip before though, in 1977…
Almost doubled in price in 3 years! Now that is inflation.
“Some day Titan will reprint my first year in the team as a collected book. Get that down in writing, officer!”