Continuing the series that looks at those thankfully rare times in football history when fans went to a football match but never made it home afterwards.
(For Part One click here; Part Two here; Part Three here; Part Four here; Part Five here; Part Six here; Part Seven here; Part Eight here; Part Nine here; Part Ten here, part Eleven here, part Twelve here; and part Thirteen here).
Usually human error is at the root cause of most stadium disasters. But when greed and corruption is added to the mix as well, then the consequences can be deadly, as France found out in May 1992.
Bastia Stadium Disaster 1992
Bastia, from the island of Corsica, who were then a Ligue 2 team at the time, had made it through to the semi-finals of the French Cup, where they were due to host Marseille, the biggest team in France at the time, with stars like Jean-Pierre Pain, Chris Waddle and Didier Deschamps.
The match was due to be staged in Bastia’s Stade Armand Cesari, which had a capacity at the time of just under 9,000. That was more than enough for their usual fixtures, but a game against Marseille was of a different order of magnitude altogether.
The club had already used emergency stands for their quarter-final against Nancy, but this time the directors wanted something more ambitious , and decided tat the small North Stand, which normally held 540 fans should be demolished and, in its place, a temporary structure which could accommodate 9,300 people should be erected in its place.
The problem was that the semi-final was only two weeks’ away, meaning that there was no time to apply for the required planning permission.
Instead, the old stand was demolished in the dead of night by a company linked to the club’s former president.
The first firm they contacted for the installation of the new stadium pulled out due to the lack of time, and, instead another company, Sud Tribune, agrees to carry out the work.
A strike at the port of Marseille prevents the delivery of the necessary materials and there are further delays caused by the issue of the necessary safety reports. Despite this the club begin selling tickets and Corsicans are stunned to discover they are 75% more expensive than what they paid to watch the quarter-final.
Work though continues apace, although there is another setback when the local fire department t finds some abnormalities and rules that the safety of the stand is not at the required level.
Frantic upgrades continue as the day of the match dawns.
Fans begin flocking to the ground early , and 90 minutes before kick-off the stadium is already packed, but those in the temporary new stand are beginning to express their concerns, with some comparing the sensation like being in a rocking boat.
By the time the two teams emerge onto the pitch for their warm-up, some people have begun to panic, whilst engineers are still tightening bolts and repairing defects at the base of the stand. An announcement is made over the public address system asking people sat there not to move for fear that metal parts may come off it.
A few minutes later, the inevitable happened and the upper part of the stand collapsed, sending down 2,000 fans and journalists down into a mass of metal, seats and bodies. The spectators left at the bottom of the stands escaped onto the pitch, helped by the players who had just emerged from the tunnel.
The pitch is turned into an open air hospital as the wounded are treated, many of them air-lifted to Marseille for further treatment. Nevertheless, 18 people are dead and hundreds injured,
An official report concluded that engineering errors, a lack of planning and oversight, breaches of safety rules and general poor management were all to blame, and that responsibility was shared by the club, the Corsican Football League, and the French Football Federation FFF).
It also transpired that the inflated ticket prices had not been reported to the FFF and the additional revenue raised was intended to go straight into the pockets of the directors of Bastia.
At a subsequent trial, eight of those deemed responsible were found guilty and given jail sentences up to two years in jail.
One man who did not appear in court though was Bastia club president at the time of the disaster, Jean-Francois Filippi. He was shot dead in his back garden two days before the start of the trial.
Andy is an exiled English football fan living in Cyprus. He loves all sports but football is his abiding passion, and he still has dreams every now and then about scoring the winning goal in a Wembley Cup Final, even though his playing days are long gone. He follows most major leagues, across Europe at least, and has a favoured team in each. When he’s not watching, listening, reading or downloading podcasts about football, he spend his time worrying about his beloved Arsenal.