From: (Garry Archer)
Subject: Re: NAS Re-Guatemala Disaster
Date: October 18, 1996

The morning after the tragedy I was watching "Good Morning America" on ABC
while getting ready to leave for work.  The newsreader announced the bad
news, but also interjected the words "in a sport known for its violence"
(he may have said "around the world" too).

Association football -- soccer -- may be slowly gaining popularity in
the United States, but it is statements like these which become firmly
imprinted in the minds of the majority of the US public.  "Soccer is a
violent sport."

We here on NAS know it is not a violent sport, generally.  Sure, there are
anomolies regarding certain actions on the pitch.  But, they are rare and
hardly any worse than I see in many NHL ice hockey games!  Fortunately,
hooliganism is severly frowned upon and is caused by a distinct minority
and only in a few small number of countries.  Fortunately, stadium disasters
occur less frequently than airline disasters and both are only exacerbated
by the numbers of casualties all at once, versus automobile accidents and
the number of victims per year, for example.

The shear number of soccer supporters in the world and the shear number of
matches they attend and the infinite number of possibilities and probabilities
that cause disasters adds up to tragedies like Guatemala, et al, will
happen once in a while.  It is sort of akin to the odds of an astronomical
object _will_ strike the earth once in a while (albeit once every several
thousand years versus once every several years!)

No matter how many safety measures and policies are implemented, disaster
will strike when you least expect it.  C'est la vie.

The Guatemalan tragedy has caused me to reflect on my "vie" a little bit
harder though.  I was watching one interview of a woman who had lost
four brothers and a niece or nephew.  Four brothers, gone, just like that.
She seemed to be in too much shock to cry about it.  To this woman and
all who lost someone in Guatemala, my heart goes out to them all.

From: (Garry Archer)
Date: October 18, 1996

Apr  5, 1902  Ibrox Park, Glasgow Scotland.  Scotland v England.
        The West Stand collapsed.
        25 killed, 517 injured.

Mar  9, 1946  Burden Park, Bolton, England.  Bolton Wanderers v Stoke City.
        Containing wall fell, pandemonium broke out.
        33 killed, 400+ injured.

Nov  6, 1955  Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy.  Napoli v Bolgna.
        Bologna awarded equilzing penalty.  Riot ensued.
        152 casualties, including 50 police and "carabinieri."

Sep 21, 1962  Libreville, Gabon.  Gabon v Congo-Brazzaville.
        A landslide hits the stadium.
        9 killed, 30 injured.

May 24, 1964  National Stadium, Lima, Peru.  Peru v Argentina (Olympic teams)
        2 mins to go, referee disallows Peru's equaliser.  Riot ensued.
        318 killed, 500+ injured.

Jun 23, 1968  Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aries, Argentina.
                River Plate v Boca Juniors.
        Poste match, jubilant Boca fans threw burning paper down from
                the upper tiers.  Fleeing fans cause stampede.
        74 killed, 150 injured.

Jan  2, 1971  Ibrox Park, Glasgow, Scotland.  Celtic v Rangers.
        Fans leaving early tried to return into the stadium when hearing
                Rangers equilised late.  Steel barrier collapses in the
        66 killed, 140+ injured.

Sep 17, 1971  In Turkey.  Siwas v Kayseri.
        A platform collapses.
        40 killed, 600 injured.

Feb 17, 1974  In Cairo, Egypt.  Important local match.
        Crowds entering the stadium broke down barriers.  Stampede ensued.
        49 killed, unknown injured.

Dec  6, 1976  In Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  Haiti v Cuba.
        Cuba equilises and a fan sets off a firecracker.  Fans think it is
                gunfire, panic, knock down a soldier whos machine gun goes
                off killing two children.  Panic continues, two men are
                trampled to death, another dies jumping over a wall.  The
                aforementioned soldier commits suicide.
        6 killed, unknown injured.

May 11 1985  Valley Parade stadium, Bradford, England.
                Bradford City v Lincoln City.
        Cigarette stubbed out in plastic cup thrown through the boards
                under the main stand causes major fire to erupt.
        56 killed, hundreds injured.

May 29 1985  Heysel Stadium, Brussels Belgium.
                Liverpool v Juventus (European Cup Final).
        Inadequately segregated fans taunting each other.  English fans
                rushed the Italian fans causing panic and pandemonium
                and a collapsed wall.
        39 killed, 450+ injured.

Apr 15 1989  Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, England.
                Nottingham Forest v Liverpool (FA Cup Semi-Final)
        Fans trying to get into the already full stadium section cause fans
                to be crushed against the wire fence barriers.
        95 killed, 200+ injured.

There are many, many more.  These are just some of the major soccer stadium
disasters.  They are caused by a variety of factors.  Rioting, inadequate
facilities, aging or poorly designed facilities, lack of security or
organisation and sometimes just shear chance (the landslide, for example).

While most of these disasters appear to occur in Britain and, owing to the
reputation of English hooligans, could easily be blamed on this minority
element, take another look.  Only the Heysel disaster can be fully attributed
to English hooligans.

And the disasters occur all around the globe.

The fact that disasters like these occur mostly in soccer may be attributed
to the following factors:

        a) Soccer is the world's most popular sport.  There are more soccer
        stadiums in the world than most other sports (horse racing may be
        an exception!)

        b) Most of the world's soccer stadiums are antiquated, especially
        in Britain where the sport has been organised the longest.  As
        evidence of this, many British clubs are now building new stadiums
        rather than continually maintaining the old structures.

        c) Soccer causes more passion amongst its supporters than almost
        any other sport, creating an atmosphere at many games that may
        catalyse undesirable effects, i.e., rioting against the last
        minute penalty decision.

        d) Soccer is woven so tightly into the social fabric of many
        communities, particularly the working classes and third world
        countries, that, yes, the game _does_ mean life and death.
        (cf. "The Futbal War" between Honduras and El Salvador.)

And I could go on.  You get the picture.

What I am attempting to do here is explain why, to __myself__, that I was
not shocked to hear about the Guatemalan tragedy.  I was upset for those
who lost friends and relatives, but the disaster did not surprise me.

It will happen again.  But who knows where and when?  It just makes you
think twice and twice more, the next time you attend _any_ event wherever
a large crowd will gather.  And especially a soccer crowd, no matter how
peaceful things appear to be.

From: Colin Morris 
Date: October 18, 1996

>Mar  9, 1946  Burden Park, Bolton, England.  Bolton Wanderers v Stoke City.

50th anniversary this year. My mother-in-law knows people who went to
the game and survived and also someone who was killed. Remarkably,
most of the spectators  didn't even know there'd been a disaster until
they got home and petrified relatives were on street corners to greet them.

>Jan  2, 1971  Ibrox Park, Glasgow, Scotland.  Celtic v Rangers.

It's strange. I can remember exactly where I was when I heard about
this:- the British soccer fan's equivalent to "Where were you when JFK
was shot?". I was standing on Nuneaton railway station after having
just watched Nuneaton v Gravesend & Northfleet.

>Only the Heysel disaster can be fully attributed to English hooligans.

In fact, only the Heysel can be attributed to hooliganism at all as far as 
"British" disasters are concerned. And even Heysel was exacerbated by stadium 
maintainence that had been criminally negligent. Sadly, I notice the US media 
is once again resurrecting crap in its explanations of past disasters 
including the statement that the Bradford fire was probably caused by a flare 
thrown by a fan.

>       b) [..] many British clubs are now building new stadiums
>       rather than continually maintaining the old structures.

Or effectively completely rebuilding existing ones.

>       d) Soccer is woven so tightly into the social fabric of many
>       communities, particularly the working classes and third world
>       countries, that, yes, the game _does_ mean life and death.

I think there's a lot to this. Countries have tolerated dangerous
conditions at soccer stadiums that wouldn't have been tolerated in
other areas of life. For example, it took until the Hillsborough disaster for
Britain to radically address stadium safety. The result is a string of
new or rebuilt stadiums and the complete abolition of standing areas
(in the top two divisions) and the removal of fences around the field
(a misguided introduction in the 80's as a response to earlier
hooliganism). Sadly, the painful lessons the British eventually
learned have not been applied in many other places. I still cringe when I see
fenced in fans at games, particularly in places where it's the custom 
to rush towars the fence when a goal is scored:- any panic in the crowd has a high
probability of leading to an incident when fences prevent people from
quickly getting away from danger.

Will a disaster happen in the US? I sincerely hope not, but make no
mistake there *are* equally dangerous stadiums over here. I've been to
almost all English league grounds but I've never seen such a dangerous
stadium as Stanford Stadium. Ancient wooden stands that are tinder dry
for much of the year, narrow staircases down to the outside of the
stadium, a fence around most of the field, and ludicrously few exits
from the seats themselves all contribute to make it a disaster waiting
to happen. I'm still amazed that FIFA allowed World Cup finals matches
to be played there.