Riots in Sports History

Heysel Stadium Disaster -Belgium, May 29, 1985 

Soccer hooliganism has plagued the sport from its birth, but arguably no individual event has left a darker mark than the Heysel Stadium Disaster in 1985, often referred to as the “darkest hour in the history of UEFA.”  Juventus was to play the premier club of the time, Liverpool, in the European Cup Finals. Riots began an hour prior to kick-off when divided fans began hurling objects across the barricade.  Liverpool supporters then flocked to the support stanchion and climbed the wall, causing Juventus supporters to flee in fear.  The extra weight caused by the rioters cracked and toppled the divider, crushing and killing 39 people and injuring an additional 600.  Juventus went on to win a hollow victory, securing the match 1-0.  

Disco Demolition Night – Chicago, July 12, 1979 

Starting off the list is an infamous event in the history of America’s favourite pastime.  On Thursday, July 12, 1979 a double-header between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers turned nasty as fans gathered to celebrate the “Death of Disco.”  The 90,000 fans present, a crowd that pushed the stadium to capacity, were angsty from the start. They hurled vinyl records and other debris onto the field several times throughout the contest. Things came to a head at the end of the first game, when a planned detonation of disco records turned violent; thousands of fans rushed the field to revel in the destructive death of disco. Although only minor injuries were reported, the demonstration put a definitive end to disco and the planned double-header.

2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot – Vancouver, June 15, 2011

What list could be complete without a return to last summer’s shameless Vancouver riot? One of the most destructive riots in Canadian and sports history, it all began to take shape as game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals wound down with Vancouver in line for the loss.  Fans became unruly, beginning by throwing bottles at large screens in the viewing area before taking to the streets in growing numbers.  By the end, 15 cars were set ablaze and countless stores were broken into and ransacked. Over 100 arrests were made, and there were over 140 injuries, and $5 million in property damages.    

Ten Cent Beer Night – Cleveland, June 4, 1974 

Returning again to baseball, the Ten Cent Beer Night had all the ingredients for disaster: extremely cheap beer, and clashing sports teams. The contest was between the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers, with the idea behind the promotion being to offer as many 8 oz beer cups as a fan could drink for 10 cents each, to boost waning attendance. With the game tied 5-5 and the go-ahead Rangers’ run on second, an inebriated Cleveland fan charged the field to steal the outfielder’s cap.  The Texas bench, fearing he would be assaulted, stormed the surface-bats in hand-with the Indians following suit. This prompted a massive influx of fans to the field, many armed with an extremely bizarre repertoire of weapons including nunchuks. Ultimately, riot police arrived to restore order, but not before hundreds of injuries were reported.  Needless to say, further scheduled Beer Nights were cancelled.    

Richard Riot – Montreal, March 17, 1955 

No player has meant more to his team, or his city, than what Maurice Richard did to the Canadiens and Montreal.  Therefore, it is not surprising that tempers flared following his suspension for the remainder of the 54-55 season for a hit on a linesman. When Clarence Campbell, the head of the NHL, appeared at the first Canadiens’ game following the suspension, a riot broke out in the streets to appeal the punishment.  At its peak, the riot contained thousands of unsettled fans and accumulated more than 100 arrests and 37 injuries.  Additionally, it cost the city over $100,000.  Only the man himself could save the city at this point, as Richard did when he appealed to the hostile crowd and asked them to disperse. Finally, they obeyed.    

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