Bananas!

Colin Moynihan Colin Moynihan is a twat.

I actually used a stronger four-letter word than that, I’ll leave to you to guess which.

Back in the late 1980’s Thatcher plucked him from the Tory backbenches to do her bidding. Specifically at that time she tasked the junior Minister for Sport with a scheme which thankfully for all football supporters, failed to get off the ground.

The way things were with football back then, it was different world to how it is now. Grounds were dilapidated. The facilities were neglected and little attention was given to their maintenance. Spectators were herded like cattle and sadly there were some who behaved like animals.

There were these “firms”, groups of idiots who regulary gathered to scrap with others outside the grounds. They used the pretence of being a football supporter as an excuse for the fighting. Hardly any of them were actual football fans.

This trend soon spread and many clubs had these firms associated with them. The pitched battles were becoming a regular occurance.

Soccerphile blog – Political footballs:
soccerphile article - political footballs

The culture in Thatcher’s 80’s was one of class, greed, of money. The haves and have nots. Wealth was everything and the football was the entertainment of those lower classes. The government solution to the fighting was like many of their ideas: idiotic, ill-conceived and poorly planned.

The thing was Thatcher didn’t understand sport until it encroached on her political territory and it then became an irritant, something to stamp out. She set the police upon the striking miners and the dockers, she was also going to sort out these hooligans.

T here was an unpopular chairman of a football club… Yes I know, I need to clarify which… This one was David Evans, the chair of Luton Town football club, a Tory MP and a staunch Thatcherite.

Because of his actions Evans had made Luton a very unpopular club. With the plastic pitch, the banning of away fans and something which caught Maggie’s eye – a members only scheme.

The “Iron Lady” liked this idea and set little Colin with some legislation which would sort out these football ruffians. In their minds it would clamp down on this trouble. But the problem was that it would have also infringed upon our civil liberties.

This legislation was called the Football Spectators Act of 1989

This Football Spectators Act would introduce a ‘National Membership Scheme’.
Via BBC News:

FSA_docAccess to football grounds would be restricted to those in possession of an ID card. The casual fan would be denied; the away fans, as they were at Kenilworth Road, might be banned altogether.

Critics complained that the possibility the vast majority of supporters might be law-abiding citizens seemed not to be considered.
Neither did the technological issues with the cards, or concerns about queues building at turnstiles, or the failure of a similar scheme in Holland, or the fact that most disturbances were outside grounds rather than inside – let alone the wider civil rights issues.

» Barmy Army – Civil Liberty

The Guardian - from the archive: 7 July 1988 - Thatcher won't back down on Soccer ID cards
In an attempt to combat football hooliganism, the prime minister tells league clubs that she will introduce photo ID cards for travelling fans

“Legislation to impose a compulsory national membership scheme on all 92 Football League clubs is to be introduced in the next parliamentary session, the Prime Minister told the football authorities yesterday.

 The Government will also consider whether it should urge the Football Association to withdraw England from the World Cup in Italy in 1990.

Anyone wishing to go to a football match from the beginning of the 1989-90 season will need a registered card, with photographs, issued by one of the 92 League clubs in England and Wales. The cards will allow supporters to attend away matches.

Mrs Thatcher told football chiefs, including Mr Graham Kelly, the Football League secretary, and Mr Ted Croker, the Football Association secretary, of the decision at a 90 minute meeting in Downing Street yesterday.

They pleaded unsuccessfully that a compulsory scheme was impractical and likely to drive down attendances. But they could not win the 66 per cent majority of League clubs required for a voluntary national membership scheme.”      » Full article

Naturally the genuine football supporters were alarmed at these plans to brand everybody just because of an idiotic few. But worse was this fascist type of conception to have to show some papers to identify yourself. The issue was widely protested and there was a reaction.

Around this time there was a rise in the football fanzine. Most of them were dedicated to a particular club. There were a couple that dealt with football in general though. One was When Saturday Comes (WSC), the other was Rodney, Rodney !

It was via these fanzines that the organisation and protests against this act began. Additionally there were some Liverpool fans, upset with the branding and treatment of all supporters after the Heysel disaster, who set up the the Football Supporters Association (now the FSF).

Rodney, Rodney! the Manchester based fanzine, with the help of their London counterparts at WSC, created a campaign to raise awareness of this controversial issue. They did this in a musical way…

 

Ah you remember those inflatables ?
A snippet from MCIVTA on where this craze began:

At a time when English football was at a bit of a low ebb, banned from Europe following the Heysel disaster, continuing hooliganism and the threat of a national identity card scheme being imposed by the government, there came a craze which brought a smile back to fans’ faces and gave football some long-awaited good publicity. And it all started at Maine Road with a single inflatable banana accompanied by a City fan called Frank Newton.

The story began when Frank went to visit his friend Allen Busby during the Summer of 1987. Allen was a toy collector and amongst the exhibits spread throughout his house was a five foot inflatable banana. Probably under the influence of some beverage or other, Frank thought it would be a good laugh to parade the banana on the terraces at Maine Road. Frank was loaned the banana on condition that he provided proof that he had taken it to the game.

And so on 15th August 1987, the first appearance of an inflatable banana at a British football ground happened. Frank went to City’s first game of the season against Plymouth Argyle with a friend, Mike Clare, and they took pictures before and during the game. The fans’ reaction was universally favourable as the huge yellow object was greeted with laughter wherever it appeared…           » Read the full article

Before you knew it there were hundreds of blow up bananas on the Maine Road terraces.
This craze caught on and soon other inflatables began to appear:

The people behind the Rodney Rodney! fanzine, who were Man City supporters, were in the process of creating something which would help raise funds for the newly created Football Supporters’ Association

At the same time that this album was being planned, compiled and released the tragedy at Hillsborough happened.
Inside each album a note was inserted addressing the disaster, on the other side was a membership form for the FSA:

. But more importantly to raise awareness of this I.D card issue.
It would be an album of music.
Of football and music.

As a commentary on this legislation they named it: Bananas!
Album front cover

A long playing compilation record
protesting about the introduction of
identity cards for football supporters.

An explanation of the situation was printed on the back cover of the album:

Bananas - back cover - the issues



THE MUSIC

A wide range of artists were gathered for the album. Most of them were football fans, most of them had a football and music connection.
All of them were against this Bill. You might recognise a few of the names:
Tracklisting

QUICK BIOS:
I,Ludicrous are well known purveyors of football and music and have been featured on F&M a number of times. / Bradford (from Blackburn.. makes perfect sense) were championed by Morrissey and once supported him on a tour. In fact Mozza himself covered this song on a B side of one of his singles. / Porky The Poet is in fact Phil Jupitus, he started out reading (alternative) poetry. / The Corn Dollies were a short-lived band who appeared at the end of the C86 movement. / The Man From Delmonte, a Manchester band with none of the members actually coming from Manchester. / Too Much Texas were originally from Abingdon but relocated to Oldham. Their lead singer Tom Hingley left to join Inspiral Carpets. / HMHB need no introduction…. / The Waltones were formed in Manchester, their guitarist went on to join The Charlatans. / Attila The Stockbroker, punk poet and musician still going strong. He did something about Brighton & Hove Albion which I’ve still got to write about… / Dub Sex were one of Manchester’s great “lost” bands (so they say), still performing. / The Desert Wolves, yet another Manchester band, released two singles. / Frank Sidebottom, a god of football and music, we miss you the most. You know we do, we really do…

As this bill was being debated and making its way through parliament, a tragedy happened which would affect everything…

 

But despite this the Conservative government were still determined to push the bill through. Douglas Hurd, the Home Secretary announced in parliament that Lord Justice Taylor would chair an inquiry, he also said:

“…we need also to take a wider view. The Government believe that the future of football in this country lies in a national membership scheme in designated grounds and now, it seems, also in providing all-seated accommodation at major football clubs. ”

» Wat Tyler – No I.D

The bill continued to be forced through despite reservations from members within their own party.
With the Taylor inquiry underway, some MP’s, especially the opposition, wanted to wait for his recommendations. But the Tories pressed on. They were afraid that if there was a delay the impetus would be lost. Besides they were uncertain that Lord Justice Taylor would come to the same conclusions that they had already decided upon.

Eventually the bill was passed, but the Hillsborough disaster report was published and a key part of the Football Spectators Act (Part 1) was brought into question by Taylor:

“I fully understand and respect the reasons which prompted the promotion and enactment of the Football Spectators Act 1989. However, it follows from my comments in the last three chapters that I have grave doubts about the feasibility of the national membership scheme and serious misgivings about its likely impact on safety. I also have grave doubts about the chances of its achieving its purposes and am very anxious about its potential impact on police commitments and control of spectators. For these reasons, I cannot support the implementation of Part I of the Act.”

Hillsborough Disaster Taylor Report.
Chapter 18 (Page 75)

The government actually took notice and the national membership scheme idea was abandoned.

Some of the other recommendations in the full Taylor report were enacted. The football clubs took down the fencing. They also looked at their facilities with a view to improving. The biggest bit of modernisation though, was the introduction of all seated stadia (at a certain level). This was also the beginning for some clubs, because of the age and condition of their grounds, to relocate. Build a new stadium. Charge even more exorbitant prices

There was more legislation a year later: The Football (Offences) Act was passed in 1991.
If you were going to take down these fences then new laws were needed to deal with any possible encroachment onto the pitch, the throwing of any missiles. But most importantly – to deal with any offensive or racist chanting. The people who were attending football matches were changing.

I’m not saying that everything changed and all is fine. No. There are still issues. But at least some steps in the right direction.
There was an increase in CCTV outside all the grounds, an improvement in policing and intelligence. Procedures put in place for reporting incidents inside and outside stadiums. Also better training and use of club stewards. The improvements with the all seated stadia seemed to calm the atmosphere down. Some say it killed it though. But the grounds have become far more welcoming and safe places.

And for the future…?

Well some supporters want a return to (safe) standing, which is actually backed by the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF). An organisation that ironically might not have existed if it wasn’t for Moynihan.
The prick.

Further reading:

EXTRA TIME: Scans of Rodney, Rodney ! fanzine Issue 1:

*Additional notes: At the same time that this album was being planned, compiled and released the tragedy at Hillsborough happened.
Inside each album a note was inserted addressing the disaster, on the other side was a membership form for the FSA: