Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for Piccadilly Radio

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio
Editorial comments: 1600-1630.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 2580
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (childhood), Law & order, Sport

Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio

Prime Minister, everybody appreciates that you are an extremely busy person. Have you had much time in the recent couple of years to see any live football?

Prime Minister

No, alas, I have not. I watch on television the match at ten particularly or the match of the day, but recently I have only been to Wembley to see the Football Cup Final. I was not able to get this year but, of course, that is a marvellous game. I remember it was the ambition of my father's life to go and see the Football Cup Final at Wembley, to take part in the community singing at the beginning. You know, that was the sort of atmosphere you had, and then always the tremendous “Abide With Me” which you still have.

Now, I have been lucky in being able to get tickets for Wembley and it is a really fantastic experience and in all my time there all the fans have been superb. There has never been any difficulty.

Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio

Did your father ever take you to see Grantham FC, which is your local team? [end p1]

Prime Minister

Very rarely, but I did go, and it was very much a part of my father's life and Grantham has been very kind in asking me to be a Vice-President of their club. But I remember just how much it meant to the community. The ground, we used to go through frequently I must tell you, because my father played bowls as well as being a football fan, and the bowls club was just beyond football, so you see the whole sort of sporting context was there. So it was a tremendous part of the life of the community.

Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio

Because I am thinking ahead now to the forthcoming season and the problems that football will face and in a roundabout way there are many clubs who might have to go to the wall this season because they cannot meet the financial pressures and what have you, and as you suggested, it means a lot to the local communities, their football team, and it will be a terrible shame to see any teams have to stop playing or whatever, because the communities themselves will suffer.

Do you feel that this is a pressing point, that football should try and carry these teams through?

Prime Minister

I think you will find usually that some of the big clubs try to help some of the smaller ones. I have always understood that, but the Football League of course get the big gates and they obviously try to help some of the smaller clubs, and so do the Football Association. So there are people constantly trying to help the smaller clubs.

What we have got to do, and I am sure you will agree, is to eradicate hooliganism from the game. If not, it will kill [end p2] the game. That is not what I want to see. I wanted really to see it restored to its former place in our national life and for families to feel that they can go along there, take the family, and have a marvellous day out.

And so yes, we are going to have a difficult time. We are going to have a difficult season, but it is a critical season, because if we do not stop hooliganism this season it will go on and it will kill the game, and I think we are all feeling together about this. Players feel very strongly about it. They have reason to. Sometimes they are the targets of it. Most spectators feel very strongly about it. Politicians feel very strongly about it. Communities feel very strongly about it, so we just have to get all together.

Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio

Do you intend that the people caught doing these criminal acts, if they are punished, do you intend them not to come back to football again? Not release them on to the streets, rather than allow in some manner or form to come back to football so that the authorities and the police can keep an eye on them?

Prime Minister

I believe in severe sentences for severe crimes. Let me make that absolutely clear. Violence I cannot stand and anyone guilty of it, to me, should have a severe sentence, and I am very [end p3] pleased that it has been said in the Court of Appeal that people who indulge in violence should in fact have a custodial sentence. Now, we have seen one or two severe sentences. Now, what Leon Brittanthe Home Secretary is thinking of doing is in introducing a Bill in the next session. We are going to have a new Public Order Bill, and one of the clauses should be that the courts should have the power to exclude those who have been convicted of violence on football grounds, should be excluded from games in future, and I think that is right.

No, I do not necessarily think you will release it on to the streets, but if you do, then the police will deal with it there. But wherever you are caught perpetrating violence, you really have got to have a severe sentence. But we have got to recognise that football has come to attract the type of person who have engaged in a kind of tribal territorial warfare on football grounds. You must have watched videos. You must have heard them behind you! They are not interested in football, not interested in football.

I have seen some videos. It is one of the most depressing experiences of my life. Where the police have taken videos while matches are going of whole sections of the crowd on the terraces not watching the game; shouting at one another, attacking one another, trying to take one another's territory. I have never seen anything like it.

Now, football has attracted that kind of person. We have got to deal with that. What they have come to think of is that they somehow are anonymous, no-one will get them. With the combination of factors that we are operating, I believe we shall. [end p4]

First, the closed-circuit television—not just to keep order, but to identify each and every face, each and every person allied with club membership cards, so we make it easier. That means the police can get evidence and the courts are ready to have severe sentences. We have got to cope with this.

If some of them then go out on to the streets, right, the police will cope with them there, but we have got to cope with violence not only on football grounds but in our society.

Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio

Do you feel the courts have been strong enough with some of these hooligans? If I can just quote an example from the “Daily Mail” this week, some youths were caught doing grievous bodily harm to a fish and chip shop owner in the Isle of Man and one of them got a one-month jail sentence and yet, on the same page, there was somebody involved with dogs fighting and what have you and they got a two-month jail sentence. Do you not feel that some of these hooligans are getting away with very light sentences indeed?

Prime Minister

In general, yes. I cannot comment on particular cases, because the judiciary are totally independent, but let me make it clear: there is a violent streak in many many people and you can never get rid of it—it is part of human beings. So the only way in which you can really protect society, if you cannot persuade people to drop violence the only way is to protect society and very tough sentences to those who do violence to others is one way of stopping others from doing [end p5] it and protecting society. So when I see a case of light sentences, yes, I feel just exactly the same as I think most other people feel.

Now, we tried to do something about it in the last session of Parliament by saying that we really should have a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal—only in very rare circumstances—but should have that right, where there has been a sentence in a kind of crime which people feel is much too light and therefore somehow it undermines their confidence in the legal system. And therefore, the Attorney General should be able to say: “Look! I think that is a bit of a light sentence; I am going to put a case like that up to the Court of Appeal!” It will not affect that particular case, but it would be a guide to courts in the future if the Court of Appeal said: “Look! That sort of crime should have a bigger sentence!”

Now, we did not get it through the Houses of Parliament last time. There were some people in the House of Lords who spoke against it. I am going to have another try, because I think that that is in tune with what people feel. Usually, if I feel very strongly about something, people are also feeling very strongly about something. So let there be no doubt about where I stand. I want to clean up violence and I believe strong sentences are more likely to clean up violence than weak ones. [end p6]

Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio

On the matter of finance, football is being faced with a lot of problems at present in having to implement security systems and safety with stands and at the same time these new implementations—the card system, the possibility that away fans might not be allowed to travel—is all going to mean great hardship for football over the forthcoming year. Now, football as it is does not make a great deal of profit from the game, so how do you intend that the football clubs will find enough money to finance all of this?

Prime Minister

Well now, I looked at the finance from past years. You get about £90 million going into football as a whole, football matches and so on, and as far as helping with the grounds and safety are concerned, the Football Trust as you know helps. The Football Trust has put up half a million for closed-circuit television. The Football Trust has £7 million all together; about £3½ million goes to the Football Investment Trust, which does safety on the grounds. Now actually that had quite a bit of money last year, because it paid out—it got a surplus—and it paid out £3½ million because it had not got enough applications for extra safety on the designated grounds. It was a pity that went out. It went out to past improvements in grounds. But there has got to be enough to make the grounds safe and there has got to be enough in your major clubs for the game to continue. There is a Committee sitting on this and [end p7] they will have a look at it.

The Pools Promoters put up, as I say, about £7 million. That goes in regularly. There will be quite a number of sponsors who, in addition to the £500,000 for closed-circuit television, would put up more. You see, half a million pounds is not very much when it is spent on 35 grounds, nearly 35 grounds. We have done 20 and they are designating some more, and if that is not enough, then I think they will get sponsors to put up the rest.

Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio

Are you sure sponsors will come about, because as I said in the first question, it would be terrible to lose any clubs because of what it means to the community, so are you therefore trying to guarantee that we will be able to find sponsors if football cannot find them themselves?

Prime Minister

I think for closed-circuit television if the half million is not enough, I think there will be quite a lot of people prepared to come over and sponsor closed-circuit television. They will get a great deal of publicity for it and it will be very very welcome, but do not forget the £7 million that goes from the Pools Promoters every year.

Now, in addition to that, you also have about £5½ million going to the League by the Pools Promoters in return for the lists of games each Saturday and in addition to that, [end p8] until this year, when they have not agreed with television, there is about £3½ million going for television rights of football clubs. I think they are still arguing about that. And then you get very considerable gates.

Now what is in doubt this year, of course, is whether you are going to get the gates and I hope that if we deal with hooliganism the gates will go up and not down. But we have got a Committee sitting on it, to have a look to see whether the finance is enough.

Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio

The card system that you wish football to bring in, that is going to be very expensive. Again, do you think that is warranted?

Prime Minister

Well yes, I do think it is warranted. If you have an exclusion order for a particular person operated by the courts, if we get this …   . if Parliament should put this law through …   . how in the world are you going to implement it except by when a person comes up to go through a turnstile into a ground, you say: “Yes, look! There is an exclusion order on you! You cannot come in!”

Now Mr. Justice Popplewell recommended it. A number of club chairmen that I know are very keen on it and I think we have got to have it. I agree with them; I think we have got to have it. [end p9]

When you go into a ground normally, you have to show a ticket. It is not that much extra to have to show a membership and identity card. I think what the League are concerned about is putting in enough turnstiles. Well that too will have to be done. If I might say so, I think quite a number of the turnstiles have already got to be replaced on safety grounds.

We have got to do everything and if we are to restore confidence in the ordinary family, we have got to be seen to be doing everything. We are not going to get it everywhere, so you have got to start with the difficult clubs.

Now, many people think that is right. Sports-writers on the whole think that is right—some not, but a lot of them. Mr. Justice Popplewell recommends it. Many club supporters and chairmen are recommending it. We have got to do everything we can to defeat the hooligan.

Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio

Is it feasible though, because surely if I lived in Manchester, I could apply to both Manchester United and Manchester City for tickets, even if I use a slightly different name? Is it possible to check that everybody who has a card only has one card? Because then you face the problem then, I can be a Manchester United supporter going every week to Manchester United and when it comes to the local derby game against Manchester City I use my Manchester City ticket and end up in the opposing fans as far as I am concerned, which surely would lend to more trouble? [end p10]

Prime Minister

Yes, but do not forget we are going to have closed-circuit television on every ground. It will sweep where there is trouble and you will be able, with membership identity cards, to say: “Ah, he is causing trouble!” and to flash up through a computer system to who it is. It will be much much quicker to identify and anyway, if they flash up, they will be pretty well bound to identify him even without a computer system. Now, it does not matter whether he belongs to two clubs or one, if you can identify him as belonging to one, even if it is in the opposing section. The thing about membership identity cards is to help the police to catch the hooligan. You will have the same problem, of course, as you mentioned, between Liverpool and Everton. People could get a membership ticket to both clubs. They are both pretty important clubs, but it enables you to identify the person. That is the important thing.

Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio

Prime Minister, would you consider making 1986 the Year of Sport in an integrated effort to try and build up not only football, but British sport, because there was a time when Britain used to be great at sport and I think over the past 10, 20 years, we have gone in a straight decline and when you first came into Parliament you said you wanted to put the “Great” back into “Great Britain” and so what I am asking you now is possibly you could look at making 1986 the Year of Sport. [end p11]

Prime Minister

Look! Can we make 1986 the year when we make a stupendous effort to get rid of football hooliganism? Then perhaps we can go on from that to restore Britain's pre-eminence for sportsmanship in every sport and I am absolutely with you in wanting to do that—it is a great idea!

Gary Bailey, Piccadilly Radio

Thank you very much, Prime Minister.