The Heysel Stadium disaster was a human disaster that occurred on 29 May 1985 at the Heysel Stadium, Brussels prior to the 1985 European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus. 39 Juventus fans lost their lives during the incident with a further 600 injured, which has had a substantial impact on European football.
For the final, Juventus fans were allocated tickets for the terraces behind one goal- terraces M, N and O, whereas Liverpool fans were allocated terraces X and Y, behind the other goal. The adjacent Z terrace was reserved for neutral Belgian fans. However much of Belgium was populated by ethnic Italians, and as such terrace Z filled up with Juventus fans. Even tickets for the terrace that were sold by Belgian touts found their way mostly into Juventus hands. This dangerous mix of rival fans was predicted well in advance of the match, but UEFA dismissed the concerns. Violence began to erupt at about 19:00, an hour before kick off when Liverpool fans from terrace Y and Juventus fans in terrace Z began goading each other and throwing missiles across the thin wire fence separating the terraces. At around the same time, a selection of young Belgian players were playing out a match wearing the colours of the finalists, for the entertainment of the crowd. The young Belgian team wearing red took a 3-0 lead, which was celebrated heavily by the Liverpool fans. The white team scored at about 19:10, and at this time the players were taken off the pitch as the violence began to escalate significantly.
Following the disaster, an initial report placed the blame entirely at the feet of the Liverpool fans. UEFA observer Gunter Schneider had concluded "Only the English fans were responsible. Of that there is no doubt." However, no official enquiry into the incident was ever undertaken. UEFA banned all English clubs from European competition for 5 years, with Liverpool specifically given a 10 year ban, however Liverpool only saw through 6 of those 10 years, making their European comeback in the 1991-92 season. It has been suggested that Liverpool could have won more European Cup titles had they not been given this ban, as their squad in the latter half of the 1980s under manager Kenny Dalglish was very highly regarded. In addition to the bans on English clubs, Belgium was banned for 10 years from hosting a major European final.
27 people were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by police after they assessed a great deal of security footage. This led to 14 Liverpool fans given 3 year jail sentences. Half of these sentences were suspended and it is unclear how many people were eventually imprisoned for the incident.
Although the initial blame was officially given to Liverpool fans, an 18-month investigation completed by a top Belgian judge concluded that, whilst Liverpool fans were of course culpable, blame should also be shared by the football authorities, such as UEFA for dismissing all fears over Heysel Stadium's suitability as the host of a major final, and the police, for failing to provide adequate crowd control.
Heysel Stadium never hosted a football match again in its older state. In 1994, it underwent an extensive regeneration and became known as the King Baudouin Stadium, which has since been selected by UEFA for a major European Cup final- the 1996 European Cup Winners Cup.
In the quarter finals of the 2004-05 Champions League, Liverpool were drawn against Juventus for the first time since the Heysel disaster. The first leg was hosted at Anfield, and Liverpool made significant efforts to extend a hand of friendship to Juventus and its fans. Numerous publications, including the match programme and the Liverpool Echo, had written extensive articles detailing the sorrow Liverpool felt for the incident. Every Juventus fan who attended Anfield was presented with a wristband containing the colours of the two clubs, and a leaflet was placed on the seat of every Juventus fan with a quote from former Liverpool and Juventus player Ian Rush, stating "We are sorry. You'll never walk alone." A minute's silence was observed prior to kick off in remembrance of the tragedy, and an emotional rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone was performed, which many Juventus fans sang along to. Liverpool fans in the kop end displayed a giant mosaic, spelling out the word 'Amicizia,' the Italian word for 'friendship.' These gestures garnered a mixed reaction in Italy from the Juventus fans. Many applauded the efforts, as did UEFA. However there were also many that considered the apologies hollow. Turin-based newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport proclaimed "At the festival of friendship, ignorance wins."