Leeds & Man United fans on the way to the match 1976

Archive footage captures fans as they make their way to the ground for Leeds v Man United from October 1976

man united fans elland road 1976(1)

The British Film Institute (BFI) has unearthed some incredible archive footage from 1976 of rival fans making their way to Elland Road for the match between Leeds United and Manchester United.

It is a police surveillance film, ostensibly showing how they police a matchday crowd, shot without sound and lasting some 23 minutes as the camera cuts between Leeds fans making their way to Elland Road and United fans disembarking at the train station before walking together en masse to the ground. It also shows crowd footage during the match, fans being escorted from the stands and arrested and scenes after the game; the arrests and the injuries due to running battles between opposing fans keen to get at each other.

As the BFI themselves state:
“A police cameraman films the long march of Manchester United supporters, baggy trousers and all, to and from British Rail Football Specials to Elland Road, past acres of derelict land providing a plentiful supply of bricks for ammunition. Another routine Saturday in 1976 as the police, out in force, attempt to keep apart the two sets of notorious supporters, inside and outside the ground”.

It’s a wonderful bit of social history capturing the mood and the fashions of the time. What makes it particularly interesting is the footage focuses almost exclusively on the supporters themselves giving us an invaluable insight into what your average northern football fan wore for a saturday afternoon on the terraces.

This was October 1976, punk had exploded across London and partially ignited some metropolitan centres around the country, but most of these young football fans were still dressed in typical 70s gear – high waist flared trousers, tank tops, suit jackets, patterned cardigans, denim, lots of denim, open neck shirts with large collars, the hair, long at the back, wavy and parted in the middle similar to how the majority of pop stars, and indeed football players of the day would wear it. Plus scarves as an almost compulsory accessory.

In fact there seems little or no inclination to ‘dress’ for the terraces. This is just the normal young male fashion of the times. Even the shoes are largely the workday variety, boots mainly, almost no trainers on show, certainly no adidas.

And although punk swept away the cobwebs of the past and provided a canvas for a new kind of social and cultural experimentation, it was the mod revival that followed in 1979 (and its musical sibling two-tone/ska) that allowed a new generation of young men to re-assess themselves and reassert a ‘peacock’ fashion dynamic where clothes created meaning, difference, identity, tribal belonging. Clothes became a very defined method of expression, just like the music you listened to, more selective and more discerning, paving the way for the football casuals of the early 80s to finally emerge.

The film though is a great snapshot of a period just before the casuals came and carved out a place on the terraces for themselves.

Manchester United eventually beat Leeds 2-0 on the day in front of a crowd of 44,512, Steve Coppell and Gerry Daly were the scorers.

Arrests 81, police injured 4.

man united v leeds 1976


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