The report that was released yesterday into the disaster on 15th April 1989 at Hillsborough Stadium has placed the blame in the hands of the South Yorkshire Police.
The report was compiled by the Hillsborough Independent Panel which has been pouring over more than 450,00 documents related to the incident. It was published yesterday after a full House of Commons agreed for details to be disclosed – which usually doesn’t happen until 30 years after the report has been compiled.
South Yorkshire Police’s failure to have adequate crowd control at the stadium led to the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans who were there to support Liverpool in their FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forrest. They were expecting to see their team, who eventually went on to win the FA Cup that year, one of their many football trophies of the era, get to the final.
Instead Forrest fans had to watch in horror as a crush in the Leppings Lane stand ended in the deaths of 94 Liverpool supporters at the scene with one other dying three days later and Tony Bland, who was left in a coma after the incident, died in 1993.
The match was abandoned five minutes after kick off, leaving players standing agape with shock in their football kits as the tragedy unfolded before them. All fans could do was pull their football kits over their faces or watch as fans of all ages scrambled up barriers or were pulled to safety of the above tiers.
Relatives of the dead have been campaigning for more than 20 years to get to the truth, after the blame was placed on the Liverpool fans for a ‘drunken, ticketless conspiracy’ to get into the ground.
This angle was one that has been played out by the Police and emergency services time and time again in a bid to deflect the blame away from themselves. It was reported by The Sun shortly after that, amongst other things, some Liverpool fans ‘urinated on the brave cops’ and ‘fans beat up PC giving kiss of life’.
These allegations, for which the source has never been revealed and perhaps never shall be, has led to The Sun being a pariah in Merseyside to this day.
Amongst the 96 victims was a young Stephen Gerrard’s cousin, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, who at only 10 years old was the youngest victim of the crush. Stephen Gerrard, who was sent off in England’s World Cup 2014 qualifier on Tuesday, touchingly recalls both watching with shock as the news bulletins came in during the disaster as well as the moment he was told of Jon-Paul’s death.
Kenny Daglish’s son Paul was also in the disaster but survived, and the ex-Liverpool manager himself became a beacon of support for a city in mourning, which explains his legendary status to this day.
The report fails to explain why South Yorkshire Police replaced an experienced match commander and replaced him with someone who had little to no experience just weeks before the game.
It also details failures in how the incident was handled, including the delays by the emergency services to respond and the lack of adequate safety provisions at Hillsborough.
Prime Minister David Cameron has formally apologised to the families of the victims both for the failure to protect their loved ones and for the indefensible wait for the truth.