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Back of the Net!: Papers of Simon Inglis, Sports Writer and Lecturer Catalogued and Live

by Natalie Hayton on 2023-06-26T10:43:00+01:00 in Archives, DMU Staff, Heritage, History, Sports | 0 Comments

CONTENT WARNING: This post refers to the Hillsborough disaster and includes reporting with images on football hooliganism.

Looking for a football fix now the the football season is over and the FA Cup has been won? Then look no further than our newly catalogued collection of the papers of author and lecturer for DMU's International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC), Simon Inglis. A specialist in the history, heritage and architecture of sport and recreation, he is best known for his work on football history and stadiums.

Above: A selection of publications and guidelines from the Inglis collection.

Football is considered the world's most popular ball game in terms of spectators and participants as its fairly simple rules and requirements (a ball and two goals -- posts for which we used to define with our jumpers as kids) means it can be played by anyone, anywhere. References to a ball kicking sport can be found throughout history, including ancient Egypt, but modern football, the game we know today, originated in Britain in the 19th century with first attempts to codify the rules in 1843.

Above: Opening ceremony of UEFA European Football Championship, 1996 at Wembley. The tournament was hosted by England. 

As a game inciting passion, joy and despair in players and supporters alike, its evolution as a sport and cultural industry has seen the football community compelled to confront social conflicts and controversies surrounding professionalisation, sexism, racism, and hooliganism. Reflecting this, the Inglis papers include articles and and images reporting on some shocking and upsetting incidents in football history:


Newspaper article titled: 'Referee Struck as Fans Riot' 

But it is perhaps in relation to one of the most significant and tragic moments in football that the Inglis papers offer insight, as his contribution to the reform and guidelines on grounds safety would help bring about the necessary changes to football culture that would make it better for everyone. In the quotation below, Inglis introduces the collection with reference to the Hillsborough disaster which took place on 15 April 1989 during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. As a result of overcrowding in the Leppings Lane standing-only fenced terrace of the Hillsborough Stadium allocated to Liverpool supporters, 97 people were killed and 877 injured in a human crush:



 English football received a massive jolt in 1989 as a result of the Hillsborough disaster. These papers, which formed the basis for much of my writing and research during the ensuing 15 years, reflect and I hope explain many of those changes, not least the transition from traditional football grounds with large areas of terracing, run by clubs who appeared to invest little in facilities, to modern all-seated stadiums that were more inclusive for disabled supporters, for women and children, but also for the growing number of new corporate attendees. Not only clubs but football’s governing bodies, supporters’ organisations, community groups and local authorities all had to grapple with a fresh set of requirements and expectations, while at the same time coming under increased scrutiny from the new Football Licensing Authority and from the press. 



Following the Hillsborough disaster, Inglis was appointed to sit on the Football Stadia Advisory Council (FSADC) and the Football Licensing Authority (FLA), (renamed the Sports Grounds Safety Authority in 2011). During the 1990s, Inglis edited a number of design guidelines and technical documents which covered safety and access developments in stadium seating, toilets, roofs, disabled access and terraces. Catalogued by Archivist-in-training David, the  papers include many of these guides and can be browsed here: S/010 Papers of Simon Inglis.

Above: Image from the catalogue illustrating how the papers have been organised.


Above: List of Requirements for the 2002 FIFA World Cup                                              Above: Cover page of A short paper for The Football Trust, 'drawn from a report on the effects on audience response and                                                                                                                                                crowd behaviour of the introduction by Coventry City in 1981 of England's first all-seater football stadium'.

As the Inglis papers document, while football culture reform at this time was not without its challenges, in terms of the introduction of The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and the counter group, Football Fans Against the Criminal Justice Act, there is no question attending football matches and stadia became safer. With the removal of all fencing and terraces and the introduction of all-seated stadia, the whole family could now safely enjoy "the beautiful game".



Above: Image of Crystal Palace fans with mostly children in the first front rows, celebrating during the League Championship, 1991.

These changes also made British football a more palatable sporting and investing prospect. As Inglis explains, 'Running parallel with this transformation arose a greater awareness of how major sporting events could enhance Britain’s international standing. This culminated in the staging of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, and eventually, the 2012 Olympics in London'. As a result of the new guidlines, many stadia were converted or rebuilt with safety and international events in mind, such as Sunderland's Stadium of Light.

Image of the all-seated Sunderland ground, The Stadium of Light which opened in 1997. Sunderland's previous stadium, Roker Park mainly consisted of standing terraces and was obliged to convert or find new premises to provide an all-seated stadium.

Special Collections is honoured to be the custodians of the Inglis papers and can foresee its use by staff and students in the ICSHC and beyond. As Inglis summarises, the years following the Hillsborough disaster would completely alter the football landscape and these papers offer first-hand insight into that evolution.


All in all, for those of us close to football these years of change proved a rollercoaster, and on a personal note I can only hope that historians of the future gather from these papers just how immense, and often controversial were the challenges then facing the national game. In so many respects, the football world, or we might now say the 'football industry' that we inhabit in the 2020s was shaped by the decisions taken in that all-important decade or so after Hillsborough. It was certainly a fast learning curve that changed many lives, my own included.


RELATED COLLECTION: Special Collections also holds the Papers of Sir Norman Chester relating to football which can be browsed here:

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