In the wake of the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989, when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at an FA cup semi-final, the Taylor Report into the disaster paved the way to all-seater stadia at football grounds in the top division.
Apart from the irony of imposing all seating on fans as a result of deaths caused by police incompetence, several leading clubs decided to push the cost of rebuilding their grounds onto their fans.
Arsenal and West Ham announced they would introduce Bond Schemes, to raise the millions needed.
Starting with what is now the Bobby Moore Stand, West Ham launched the Bond Scheme in November 1991.
The club offered supporters the ‘opportunity’ to purchase bonds in three price bands – £500, £750 and £950, ownership of which would confer the right to buy a match day or Season Ticket for a designated seat for 150 years. However, despite ‘purchasing this right’ the plan was they would still have to pay annually for the ticket…! The suggestion was that only those who paid the bond would heave the right to buy season tickets in future.
Outraged fans rejected this idea, seeing it as a total rip-off aimed at milking fans. Many fans would never have been able to find the money; critics saw it as the opening wedge in a campaign to exclude the poorer and increase the money that clubs thought they could extract from fans, and to edge out those who couldn’t pay in favour of corporate hospitality and the wealthier sort…
Two pitch invasions took place in protest against the scheme. A post-match demonstration by fans against the scheme and new managing director, Peter Storrie, before a home game against Wimbledon was followed by pitch invasions in home games against Everton and Arsenal.
“I was one of the protest organisers having become thoroughly disillusioned with the club’s leadership. A few months earlier I had been one of the fans selected to be part of the club’s historical invite to let fans into the boardroom to discuss the bond scheme fiasco and to oppose all-seater stadia. We got to meet with Terry Brown and regularly met with Peter Storrie, sometimes late into the evening. They even enlisted Trevor Brooking to be the god guy opposing us. After a month or so the process broke down and the bond scheme protests began, orchestrated from a house in Harold Wood by a Sun Newspaper employee who went under the code name of ‘Chicken Ron’.
We got involved with protest groups from many other clubs and a big meeting was held one evening in Clerkenwell. The strangest thing to come out of this was to be invited by the Spurs group to participate in their protest against all-seater stadia during their League Cup semi-final second leg at home to Nottingham Forest.
Two representatives from each club (West Ham, Chelsea Arsenal, Charlton, Brentford and Man Utd) were encouraged to wear their own club’s colours as well as bringing large banners indicating our unity – a very bizarre scenario now and I think I have some photos somewhere. We were given a prominent block of seats which had been provided opposite the TV cameras by Terry Venables who was their mystery backer.” (Jeff)
The West Ham board of directors were scared by the fans’ protest and announced that the purchase of a bond would no longer be required in order to buy a season ticket. Of 19,301 bonds originally available less than 1000 were sold.
There were also volatile protests by Arsenal fans against their club’s planned Bond Scheme.
The Bond Scheme may have been defeated; however, in the long run, the aims of the big clubs to turn football into a huge cash cow have succeeded. The game is unrecognizable compared to the early 1990s.
An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online