By Colin Moneypenny and Steve Kelly
From Issue 51, Spring 2001
I received a copy of the following letter that
COLIN MONEYPENNY sent to the Telegraph's Henry
Winter after comments he made about Kate Hoey
and the United fans' stance on terracing. I asked
him if I could put it in the fanzine, and after
some deliberation he agreed. It isn't necessary
to quote Winter's piece, as Colin's letter stands
up by itself, I think.
Dear Mr Winter, I must disagree with your strident
attack on those who do not support all seater
stadia for not considering the feelings of the
Hillsborough families "before leaping on
to their soap boxes".
As someone who was at the front of Pen 3 in the
Disaster and who possibly to a greater extent
than any other survivor has been a long term and
passionate supporter of the families' many battles
to secure justice for their loved ones, I have
never accepted the belief that terraces "per
se" were at the root of Hillsborough. I totally
accept the right of the families to defend that
point of view from which they have never wavered.
If I spend the rest of my football life in a seat
because it is their conviction on this issue which
is likely always to prevail, then in comparative
terms this is no great tribulation to me. However
that does not mean that I accept the view itself.
Certainly, although there are mixed opinions on
the subject, I know that I am far from alone amongst
survivors in placing a slightly different interpretation
on the events and lessons of that afternoon.
My views formed as the Disaster unfolded around
me and while someone I will never know lay in
an unreachable hell dying underneath my foot.
That is the sort of memory that stays with you
every day and ensures at the very least that the
thought that it must not happen again is at the
heart of your beliefs. Had I died myself, my family
would probably have gone along with Taylor and
the HFSG on all seaters and no doubt would have
been quite emotive with anyone who challenged
them - but if they had done that, unknowingly
they would have failed to represent me. Let me
be clear, I'm not making a wider point about what
the 96 would have said about what killed them.
None of us will ever know that but certainly the
opinions of people such as myself who were very
fortunate to survive, deserve at least as much
respect as those of the bereaved families.
My initial thoughts about Hillsborough as it was
happening have not fundamentally changed over
the years despite reading and thinking about every
aspect virtually every day for the last 12 years.
Of course there were a welter of contributing
factors but essentially I consider that the calamity
came about ultimately because of a still barely
comprehensible loss of control by the Police which
was borne out of an absolute lack of care about
the welfare of the "hooligans" they
saw in front of them. In addition given this catastrophic
failure of the safety management regime, it was
radial fencing and the "cages", another
effect of a culture of control based on security
rather than safety, which made escape from the
crush impossible for many fans like myself.
The disaster would not have happened without police
blundering "of the first magnitude"
and without radial fences which ultimately prevented
anyone from moving into the empty spaces in the
outer parts of the Leppings Lane - as was always
my own personal intention before getting swept
of my feet in the infamous tunnel. The undivided
terrace at Leppings Lane - as it once had been
- did have the capacity to hold everyone there
and people died because the central pens could
not cope with the extra pressure of the many fans
who should have been in the outer area but like
me could not get there.
The constant blaming of terraces in themselves
over the years I think has had two damaging effects.
The most serious has been to deflect blame from
the Police on the day - "How could we police
something that's inherently unsafe anyway?"
- and I note that the recent "Telegraph"
leader on this issue appeared to support that
point and indeed Kate Hoey for having the temerity
to raise the issue. Secondly I think the focus
on using Hillsborough to justify all seaters has
deflected attention from the continuing dangers
presented by fencing at Stadia around the world.
We may have our fences down but they appear to
be completely acceptable in many other countries
where "security" still prevails over
I find it quite ironic that the Hillsborough families
are trotted out to be quoted by the media whenever
this issue comes up. I am sure they are pleased
that this happens as they are quite sincere and
convinced of the soundness of their argument.
But I do find it strange that this happens, given
that on the even more important issue of Justice,
they have struggled to find journalists, with
notable exceptions such as Brian Reade and James
Lawton, who have the faintest clue about what
it has all been about, let alone anyone prepared
to give up a column to something which goes to
the root of what is rotten with both our sport
and our judicial system. I actually find that
quite scandalous. However given that most football
journalists STILL think that Brian Clough is a
decent bloke, maybe its not so surprising after
One year before nearly dying on Leppings Lane,
I was in the press box for the 1988 semi-final
at Hillsborough. The only thing in danger of being
crushed there that day were the prawn sandwiches
as they groaned under the weight of a table laden
with goodies, for the visiting hacks, by Sheffield
Wednesday and the FA. Talk about not biting the
hand that feeds you but this grotesque contrast
between private affluence and public squalor shows
quite literally what happened before Hillsborough,
when the glaring defects of the Leppings Lane,
not only at the 1988 Semi Final, but also in 1981
and 1987 were quite simply ignored.
The fledgling FSA and fanzine movement were pointing
out the dangers of fencing and the general squalor
of conditions prior to April 1989 but no one was
listening least of all the press. In those days
for journalists to be critical of the game that
paid their wages was a great rarity. Why upset
the apple cart? Yet had there been a bit of a
willingness, not to be Woodward and Bernstein
exactly, but just occasionally to point out the
very obviously horrific condition of places such
as Leppings Lane (and to be honest the crumbling
wreck that was Heysel four years earlier) then
just possibly a coalition could have been built
for change which may have prevented some of those
completely needless 80's deaths. As the phrase
goes, it was hardly "rocket science"
to comprehend what were stand out, basic deficiencies.
Oh the beauty of "if only's". My point
though, as someone who witnessed these horrors
first hand, is that it is galling to see sanctimonious
comments such as yours churned out years later
when the press at the time were hardly in the
vanguard of change when it may have made a difference.
Defending terracing is not a plea for a return
to the "dark ages". Fans of my generation
have no desire to return to decrepit stadia with
stale meat pies, piss running down your leg from
inadequate or non existent toilet facilities and
crazed youths fighting pitch battles - let alone
another Heysel or Hillsborough. Fans from the
new generation would not tolerate that anyway.
Yet anyone who even mentions standing at football
is seized upon and portrayed as some sort of Luddite
thug with NF flag in one hand and Stanley knife
in the other and that really is not the case.
In the dark ages terraces equated to hooligans
in the mindset that was created not least by the
media. The fences went up in front of the standing
areas and rarely if ever in front of seats, as
if thugs could not work out if they wanted to
charge onto the pitch it might be a good idea
to buy a seat.
The whole thing was astonishingly stereotyped
almost to the point that the Police at Hillsborough
equated the people in Leppings Lane to working
class scallies simply because of the fact they
were in a terrace and there was a fence in front
of them. The psychology was "I mean there
wouldn't be a fence there in the first place if
they weren't trouble makers?" Of course the
people in the stands were all middle class professionals
who could be trusted to behave. What a load of
nonsense, but no wonder it was safer in the seats;
no-one herded and caged you like cattle, no one
looked down on you as the scum of the earth and
treated you accordingly.
Do you see the point I'm making - that the whole
terrace people "bad"/seat people "good"
iconography actually played a part in creating
the environment for the Disaster? Taylor came
into the aftermath with such imagery firmly planted
in his and the wider public's mind. He saw rancid,
scabrous, dangerous terraces and the atmosphere
of aggression and intimidation he believed they
cultivated and it was no surprise he recommended
their demise. He did not look at any alternative
vision of standing which could build in the advantages
they do have, and which he reluctantly acknowledged,
while excising the awfulness you could almost
feel he smelt in the air.
For all sorts of reasons, some fans just like
to stand at football matches and if it can be
shown that it is as safe as possible (bearing
in mind that no arena where large numbers of people
gather should ever complacently be regarded as
"safe") why should they not have that
choice? All of the other comforts of the modern
stadium in terms of facilities should be just
the same as for seated areas, which it is not
proposed to compulsorily destroy as some all seater
advocates like our own Tommy Smith weirdly try
OK I'm nearly off my soapbox now, but please remember
next time you use that phrase that you're actually
"standing" metaphorically on quite a
large one yourself. Please don't feel that by
routinely throwing in the mention of Hillsborough
that you automatically inhabit the moral high
ground on the subject. I think I reached the point
when I knew I was not going to be converted to
the all seater principle on the day 4 or 5 years
ago when your "Mail" colleague Jeff
Powell, at the whiff of a hooligan episode of
the day, actually advocated that now we had all
seater stadia - which automatically of course
guarantee safety for all - it was time to bring
back the fences.
I'm sure you would not share this view. I know
the HFSG certainly don't but when such a lame
brained idea based entirely on the perceived perfection
of all seaters is seriously put forward, I get
worried not only about the future of sensible
discourse but that complacency about safety management
in public venues is on its way back. I am however
satisfied that the received wisdom about this
subject is not quite as clear-cut as we are continually
led to believe. Certainly there is no such thing
as safe standing but neither should we ever believe
in safe seating.
I am sure you are right. There will be no return
to terracing probably not because of the HFSG
view but for the financial reasons your article
outlined and also because all seaters are easier
to police by CCTV. To be honest, as I have said,
that in itself does not greatly bother me and
arguments against all seaters based solely on
matters such as atmosphere fail to impress.
The concern I have is not that I or the campaigners
are right and you and the HFSG are wrong or vice
versa, but that the debate should be over as soon
as Hillsborough gets mentioned. (The "oh
so you're happy to see more people die" syndrome
which, unless like me you are a survivor, it is
very difficult to argue against.) This process
means that a perfectly valid but in my opinion
questionable perception of the past, prevents
even an exploration - not of a return to what
were dark ages for us all - but of a better, more
satisfying future for everyone who genuinely cares
What's odd about Colin's letter is that a survivor
of Hillsborough isn't totally against hearing
the arguments for or against standing at matches.
The media has led you to believe this is a rarity,
but it's not. However, I should say that I've
also talked with the likes of Stevie and Peter
from the HJC and, though the discussions were
heated, they weren't totally against hearing the
arguments either - even though they oppose any
return to terracing.
What angers Colin, and angers me, is that journalists
who seldom if ever contributed to the campaign
for Justice feel that they can take such a lofty
"we know what's best for you plebs"
stance. The worst example was from the Mail's
Jeff Powell, which is hardly a surprise. While
ranting about "craven populists" - that
pesky 'democracy' and 'listening to the people'
shite getting in the way again - he began foaming
at the mouth. "Remember Hillsborough: Terraces
kill the innocent. Remember Heysel: Terraces are
fertile ground for every dreg in society from
the drunken yob to the militant activist".
Militant, drunken, yobbish dregs - he means us,
folks. I expected no better from the bigoted scumbag.
But I DO expect better from Phil McNulty and we
didn't get it. "If a campaigner arrives at
Chris Smith's office, he or she should hear just
one word and be shown the door. The word? Hillsborough".
That one word can dismiss an entire argument or
stance, which is shared by hundreds of thousands
of ordinary decent caring people, is just too
much. McNulty should be absolutely ashamed of
himself, but he's gone past a point of self parody
now and shame is based on a sense of right and
I've said before and I'll repeat it now. I know
Colin is very uncomfortable whenever I say this,
as it's an implied criticism of the HFSG only
and the HJC hasn't exactly come full on for a
return to standing - but whenever Trevor Hicks
said "There is no such thing as safe terracing"
he was giving South Yorkshire Police a 'keep out
of jail free' card. From their point of view,
how can it part of the police's job to keep something
safe that wasn't safe in the first place? My contention
is that with proper capacity controls and no fencing
and proper medical facilities and procedures,
and with numerous exits and entrances (and efficient,
caring POLICING), then it is probably safe to
stand at football matches.
People will latch onto the word 'probably' and
say we can't take the risk, and even if only one
person dies that's one too many - but nearly 5,000
people die on our roads every year. That's 'a
Hillsborough' every week. As we approach the twelfth
anniversary, that means that SIX HUNDRED &
TWENTY FOUR equivalents of Hillsborough have died
in this country thanks to the motor car. People
will then say cars are a necessity to our way
of life, and therefore the risk is worth taking,
even if 60,000 people have died on our roads since
Hillsborough took our beloved 96 - but is alcohol
a necessity? Is nicotine? These killers flourish,
while the idea of standing at a football game
provokes the kind of response that makes you think
you were living in Salem. Why are football fans
so vilified, so browbeaten, perceived as being
so utterly incapable of thought or care for their
own lives or those of others?
I've stood at plenty of Liverpool matches since
'89. It has now become something of a Euro Night
tradition, and I've never felt in the slightest
danger. I'm quite happy to retain all-seaters,
as long as sections are designated standing areas.
That might actually be a happy compromise, but
it seems we even have to battle long and hard
for the right to be heard. Some democracy.
Colin made a good point in his covering e mail:
that he wouldn't mind being debated down - he
didn't much care for being shouted down. I second