Adrian Tempany is a survivor of the Hillsborough disaster where 96 people lost their lives. Here he sets out to give an account of how football has changed in the wake of the tragic events in Sheffield.
He gives a harrowing account of the day itself, describing the intensity of the crush and the scale of the devastation with bodies lying everywhere. The gymnasium was being used as a mortuary for the dead. The effects were felt heavily down the years, with the bereaved going through fierce grief and survivors suffering trauma.
The false narrative that was put forward reshaped English football. The authorities felt that the game had to be rescued from the characters that were attending and a new class of consumers should be brought in to be entertained in all-seater stadiums.
Football supporters were demonised in the aftermath of Hillsborough and made to carry the can instead of police. In the wake of Lord Justice Taylor’s report all-seater stadiums came in and football became more of an entertainment industry.
Tempany gives us an insight into a culture being pushed to the margins. He puts forward fanzines and publications like Viz as outlets that gave the working class as voice not afforded by traditional mainstream media. Football supporters weren’t understood by Margaret Thatcher and they were broadly branded as being troublemakers and a major social problem.
The books looks into the erosion of the social function of the game with an increase of the average age of supporters and rising tickets costs pricing people out of the market. Parents and children aren’t able to attend on a regular basis and families have a lost a great place to bond and show emotions that usually go unseen.
The wage demands are outlined as the biggest drain on the finances of English clubs. Players used to go to play in other European leagues before the Premier League was in a position to offer bigger salaries. He outlines the conditions that have led to this, with the rise of of Sky television very prominently involved.
He takes a trip to Germany and finds a very different situation, with supporters wielding considerable influence and power in their clubs. There’s efforts to ensure supporters from all social backgrounds can participate in the life of the club and attend matches regularly. When he returns to England and watches Liverpool play West Ham in the Premier League he finds less teenage men in the crowd than in Germany and people don’t seem as engaged with the game.
He reckons there’s an opportunity now to draft a new football manifesto, one with a viable long-term commercial strategy and recognition of the unique social purpose. This book is a very fine overview of how things have changed and an examination of what could be done in future to improve the landcape of the game. He looks to the positive aspects of the German game and puts forward a passionate case for improving the sport that brings joy to so many people.
And The Sun Shines Now will be published by Faber and Faber on March 20.