As the Covid-19 virus raises questions on the Premier League continuing, we look back at last time the football season was almost cancelled.
The prospect of a premature end to the football season is now a distinct possibility because of the outbreak and spread of Coronavirus, but it’s not the first time that a season has nearly ended.
You have to go back to 1989, to a pre Premier League era, which pitted an unfancied, inexperienced Arsenal side against a dominant Liverpool. However, football was overshadowed that year by The Hillsborough Disaster, which saw 96 fatalities and 766 injuries in a horrifying stadium crush.
Liverpool were playing Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final when the tragedy occurred in the Leppings Lane stand, which was allocated to Liverpool fans. A surge in the number of supporters allowed into the ground caused a human tidal wave that pushed 96 people against security fences that had been introduced to stop pitch invasions and to keep rival fans apart.
That decision to cage fans would lead to the single biggest disaster in this country’s football history and eventually led to all-seater stadiums. I can recall the faces of fans, the distress of the players and the disbelief of those watching in the ground or via the media.
At the time, no one thought that the football season would continue, football had become insignificant under those circumstances. Arsenal’s Lee Dixon questioned the validity of restarting the league at the time:
“Why would you? 96 people had lost their lives, why would you carry on playing football, it was irrelevant.”
But it did restart after just two short weeks. The league continued with Arsenal and Liverpool on a collision course for the title and it would all come down to the final game at Anfield with Arsenal having to win by two clear goals.
This present situation is completely different and one only hopes that common sense and the desire to protect people outweigh any other considerations. There isn’t a single football fan that doesn’t want to see their team in action again but the feeling is that if the season has to end, it has to end.
Hillsborough also shows that football fans, despite their differences are able to come together in times of crisis. As soon as the FA decides that the Premier League season can continue, supporters will attend in their thousands, as they did before the virus. How and when is the big question?