Margaret Thatcher secret papers: Bernard Ingham mooted 'Goalies against Hoolies'

It was proposed that Elton John should take place in the campaign to discourage young people from hooliganism following the Heysel disaster

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The Independent Online

Articulate goalkeepers, Elton John hitting the airwaves and Margaret Thatcher giving an interview to a football magazine were all mooted as ingredients for a media campaign to tackle hooliganism.

Records released by the National Archives in Kew, west London, reveal that Downing Street plotted a  campaign to “mark the return to decency in British soccer” in the aftermath of the Heysel Stadium disaster in May 1985.

In a memo to Mrs Thatcher, her press secretary Bernard Ingham said a strategy was needed to convey the message that “enough is enough; an entirely new attitude and approach by government, police, football clubs and players – and we hope the mass of decent fans – governs the new season.”

At the heart of the scheme was a media blitz to highlight the “return to safety and sanity” during which it was envisaged that Mrs Thatcher would target key opinion formers – among them Jimmy Hill and Bobby Charlton – to lead a groundswell against the violence. Mr Ingham saw an opportunity in recruiting the nation’s more eloquent goalkeepers on the basis that they were “often first in line of hooligan fire”. The campaign was to be called “Goalies against Hoolies”. He wrote: “We are proposing you should give an interview to Gary Bailey, Manchester United and England goalkeeper, for Piccadilly Radio, Manchester… Bailey is an articulate graduate.”

The interview did subsequently take place but other ideas seem to have fallen on stony ground. An interview request from Shoot, a popular football magazine aimed at 11- to 16-year-olds, was rejected on the basis that “it may be too down-market a publication for the Prime Minister to make a personal contribution”.

Proposals were also made for Elton John, at the time chairman of Watford FC, to be interviewed by Bailey while No 10 added that “all the glamorous pop names in soccer” should be encouraged to take to the air waves against hooliganism.