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Upstanding hooligans: how a World Cup saved English football

In the 1980s, as a series of tragedies marred the beautiful game, football was seen as a "slum sport for slum people." Banned from Europe and chastised by politicians, it took a World Cup to bring England back

By Anthony Broxton  

From riots to Gazza's tears, the 1980s of English football. Photo: Prospect composite

This week, the Labour Party called on the government to back safe standing in football stadiums. Giving power back to the clubs and local authorities, it is a far-cry from the political interventions of the 1980s when, following decades of negligence and hundreds of terrace deaths, the clubs were belatedly forced into action.

When England departed for Italia ‘90 ‘the beautiful game’ was said to be finished in its homeland. The country’s sporting highpoint—the 1966 World Cup—had ushered in the…

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