Margaret Thatcher & Her Impact on the World of Sports

Tatcher & Hillsborough Survivors

One of the more polarizing figures of Post-War Europe, Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of Britain, the only woman to ever hold the position, passed away at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke. Thatcher, who held office from 1979 to 1990 until she was forced out by her own party. Thatcher was the Prime Minister of Britain while two of England’s greatest footballing disasters, at Bradford and Hillsborough occurred, her name being attached to the latter and the cover up that was done by the South Yorkshire Ambulance Service and others.

The Bradford City Stadium fire was the worst fire disaster in the history of English football, starting during a league match in front of record numbers of spectators, on Saturday, 11 May 1985, killing 56 and injuring at least 265. It is believed the fire started when a spectator dropped a match, lit cigarette or tobacco, which fell through holes in the stand to rubbish which had accumulated below. The fire escalated rapidly and flames became visible, and so police started to evacuate the stand. The blaze began to spread; the roof and wooden stands were soon on fire. There were no extinguishers in the stand’s passageway for fear of vandalism, and one spectator ran to the clubhouse to find one, but was overcome by smoke and others trying to escape. Supporters either ran upwards to the back of the stand or downwards to the pitch to escape; very thankfully there was no perimeter fencing to prevent fans from escaping onto the pitch – something which was a contributing factor to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

At Hillsborough, it was no fire. Just too many fans pushed into too little of a stand, resulting in the deaths of 96 people and injuries to 766 others. While initially police and ambulance forces attempted to put the blame on Liverpool fans, future investigations have proven that a cover up had been made by those involved, throwing the guilt at the actual victims of the event, the fans.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Home Secretary Douglas Hurd visited Hillsborough the day after the disaster and met survivors. Conservative MP for Sheffield Hallam Irvine Patnick ad told Margaret Thatcher, while escorting her on a tour of the ground after the disaster, of the “mayhem caused by drunks” and that policemen told him they were “hampered, harassed, punched and kicked”.