May 31, 1985: English football teams banned from Europe after Heysel Stadium deaths

Two days after 39 people were killed at the European Cup final, the FA announced that English teams would be withdrawn from European competitions.

English football clubs, bearing the penalty for the shame of the Heysel Stadium disaster two days earlier, were banned from European competition by the Football Association on this day in 1985.

Thirty-nine fans, mainly Italians, had died in the disaster at the Brussels stadium after crowd trouble had erupted prior to the European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus, as seen in the video clip above.

Between 300 and 600 more were injured after skirmishes had led fans of the Italian club to flee their section of the ground by climbing over a concrete wall. As the crowd tried to escape, the wall gave way, and fans were crushed by the weight of bodies behind them.

The ban, which was supported by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was announced by FA chairman Bert Millichip outside 10 Downing Street. Millichip said the ban was a pre-emptive move and that Uefa, European football’s governing body, was likely to impose its own sanctions.

Sure enough, two days later, Uefa announced that British clubs would be banned from European competition ‘for an indefinite period’, and that Liverpool would be kept from competing for three years (later reduced to one) over and above that period.

[May 11, 1985 - Triumph turns to tragedy as football fans perish in Bradford City stadium fire]

In September 1987, 26 Liverpool fans were extradited to Belgium and formally charged with involuntary manslaughter.  Fourteen were convicted and given three-year sentences, half of which were suspended for five years, allowing those fans to return to the UK.

Liverpool FC had already withdrawn from the following season’s Uefa Cup, but the ban would also affect league champions Everton as well as Manchester United, Norwich City, Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton. The ban would be lifted in 1990.