In the aftermath of England's "saddest day in soccer history" last weekend, Britons should re-evaluate their emotional attachment to traditions that clearly contributed to the death of 94 fans.
For years, officials of the international soccer federation have advocated the abolishment of standing-room-only sections of old stadiums. But in the name of tradition, English fans have fought change, demanding the right to stand.Ninety-five fans - including a 10- year-old boy - were suffocated or crushed to death when thousands of soccer-mad fans pressed into the crowded standing section at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield. Many of the victims were jammed against a spike-topped steel railing designed to keep spectators off the playing field.
An unruly crowd of several thousand that stormed into the stadium as the game began also contributed to the tragedy.
Soccer clubs have tried to change the way fans watch matches by eliminating standing terraces and converting stadiums to all-seating. But English fans have rejected the change.
One of England's biggest clubs, Coventry, tried to eliminate standing-room-only areas by filling them with seats - but it didn't work. Fans ended up standing on the seats.
Surrounding each of the dead at Sheffield is a story of the senselessness of of it all. The fans came to cheer their heroes, not to die in a heap four-deep with people climbing over them.
As families mourn and wreaths and flowers are placed inside the Hillsborough stadium, Britons should see what they can do to prevent a similar tragedy. Fiercely loyal fans should support efforts to ban standing-room sections at stadiums. The grief and outrage after the tragedy may provide the necessary push for change.
Sports traditions - no matter how widely practiced - should not be allowed to continue at the expense of common sense and as a threat to the lives of spectators.