The story

It was inevitable that a tragedy on the scale of Hillsborough, when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death during an FA Cup semifinal with Nottingham Forest, would have a transformative effect on English football.

But there was little reason to believe 20 years ago that, rather than being pushed even further towards the margins of society, the sport was on the brink of a revolution that would give birth to a global sporting phenomenon.

Even before Hillsborough, it had seemed as if there was something irredeemably rotten at the heart of English football.

Hooliganism, a scourge synonymous with the English game, had receded from its peak in the 1970s but English clubs were outlawed from European competition after rampaging Liverpool fans caused a wall to collapse at Brussels' Heysel Stadium before the 1985 European Cup final, causing the deaths of 39 people, mostly supporters of the Italian side Juventus.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, showing little understanding or patience for the traditions of the sport, had virtually ghettoized fans, promoting a scheme to have each supporter issued with an identity card. Read full article »

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