Football: Football's tributes to Lord Taylor

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The Independent Online
Graham Kelly, the Football Association's chief executive, yesterday led the tributes from the world of football to Lord Justice Taylor, who died aged 66 on Monday night.

"Quite simply he changed the face of football," said Kelly of the man whose report on the Hillsborough disaster called for the introduction of all-seater football grounds to England.

"I'm sure he has many other monuments to his life but from our perspective the magnificent stadia which are springing up all the time will be Lord Taylor's epitaph.

"They wouldn't have happened at the same pace without his report and that certainly helped us to get the European Championships last year."

Despite a professed allegiance to Newcastle United, Lord Taylor was a rugby, rather than a football man. Yet after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 people died in the Leppings Lane end at the Liverpool v Nottingham Forest FA Cup semi-final, he was given the job of ensuring no such tragedy could happen again in an English football ground.

His report, which was published in January 1990, advocated the removal of perimeter fencing and the introduction of all-seater stadia.

As a result England has the best arenas in the world and Rogan Taylor, who is professor of sports studies at Liverpool University and sat through weeks of the Hillsborough inquiry, said: "I watched his face over many weeks when there was a lot of paranoia on Merseyside that there would be a whitewash.

"But he was an honest and serious human being and people locally viewed him with respect. He saw how concerned the people were, he saw the truth and he told it.

"He wrote a future for the game. Indeed, without him we'd all be walking round with 'football supporter' written on our foreheads."

The Nottingham Forest chairman, Irving Korn, said: "We at Nottingham Forest feel Lord Taylor handled the Hillsborough inquiry very well indeed. We have nothing but praise for him."

And while there are still some who question whether the post-Taylor changes went too far, few would argue that his impact was positive and helped drag the game back from the abyss.

Football has become an increasingly middle-class pursuit, with traditional fans priced out of the game. Yet the unquestioned fact is that grounds are safer, are more civilised. All-seater stadiums meant that the trouble- makers, who turned the games into venues for tribal warfare, could more easily be pin-pointed, identified and punished.

With the worst elements ejected, a new breed of supporters, including more women and children, were attracted to the game as the glorious off- the-field success of Euro 96 showed.