WHEN LORD Justice Taylor's interim report into the Hillsborough disaster was published in August 1989 it spoke volumes about the tragedy that had been waiting to happen prior to the events of 15 April that cost 96 people their lives.
It concluded that the country's football grounds were potential death traps. Hillsborough had been dangerous, but for stadiums at the time it was still one of the best. The lack of signposts that had contributed to thousands of people overloading fenced pens when there were empty terraces a few metres away was awful but common.
The interim report made 28 recommendations to be implemented immediately, including maximum crowd levels for pens (there were often none); that each club should have a doctor on hand at each match; that crush barriers should be checked for rust; that turnstiles should work; that there should be written agreement between police and clubs setting out responsibilities.
That these and the others were not already in place was bad enough, but the final report, published in January 1990, was more damning still.
"The picture revealed is of a general malaise or blight over the game due to a number of factors," Taylor wrote. "Principally these are: old grounds, poor facilities, hooliganism, excessive drinking and poor leadership." He added: "The safety and comfort of those on the terraces has not been regarded as a priority." The conclusion was stark. "This inhospitable scene tends to breed bad manners and poor behaviour. The atmosphere does not encourage pride in the ground or consideration for others."
Taylor proposed, among other things, that all-seater stadiums be introduced in the top two divisions by 1994-95, that grounds had meaningful safety certificates, and that there be better communication between police and clubs. The cost of the changes was put at pounds 130m.
Ten years on, around pounds 560m has been spent on Taylor-related projects. The Football Trust - given the remit to implement the Taylor report and funded by pools' companies and football sources- has contributed pounds 160m of that. The rest has come from the clubs and the Trust feels that Taylor has been implemented effectively by most clubs in the Premier League and Nationwide First Division. Today the Trust will announce that the grant ceiling available to Second and Third Division clubs for improvements will rise to pounds 2m from pounds 1.7m.
But while 11 new stadiums have been built by clubs from Millwall to Middlesbrough, and while policing and stewarding have become more effective, there is more to be done.
How many lower division clubs are struggling to keep up? How often is the law on offensive language enforced? How often do you still see ticket- touting, which was made illegal under the Criminal Justice Act? These might be details, but pre-Hillsborough so were a lot of other things, effective signs included.
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