27 April 2016

Vindication?

Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield - April 15th 1989 - 96 Liverpool supporters crushed to death in the middle pen at the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

Warrington, Cheshire - April 26th 2016. After the two year long inquest, in a specially constructed courthouse, the jury finally reach their verdict - the 96 were "unlawfully killed".

This is what "The Liverpool Echo" has to say about the matter today:-

"The thousands of Liverpool fans who travelled to Hillsborough on April 15, 1989 played no role in causing the disaster".

But is that entirely true? There were  essentially two Liverpool cohorts in Sheffield that fateful day and in my judgement it is wrong to bracket them all together. That's happened before and it is still happening now.
One cohort of fans got to the ground early. They were in situ long before kick-off - either in their assigned seats in the upper section of the stand or down below in the fenced terracing where in those days supporters were allowed to stand. They were excited and eager for kick off.

Little did they know that the second cohort of fans was still entering the ground. Some were ticketless and many had been drinking. They arrived at the ground far too late and after the Leppings Lane gates had been opened, far too many made their way to the central pen in the middle of the  terraced area. It was that that created the awful crush that killed so many members of the first cohort - the early arrivers.

It is true that there were very significant failings by the police and the emergency services that terrible day and with better planning they could have averted the disaster. The police were grossly negligent and later they were guilty of trying to cover up their mistakes. It is right and proper that they should take their fair share of the blame but let us not forget who did the pushing.

As I say, there were two groups of Liverpool fans that day. All the dead and injured belonged to the first cohort and they were totally innocent of any wrongdoing. Their families deserve all the compensation and sympathy they receive after twenty seven years of hurt. Their fight for justice has been remarkable but I still don't think that the full truth has emerged - just a convenient form of the truth. A truth in which all Liverpool fans are exonerated - not just those who were crushed to death but also those who pushed in at the back of the central terrace,  just to get a better view of the match.

There was plenty of room available in the pens to the left and right of the goal but still they kept pushing and it seems that the police and ground stewards were powerless to do anything about it.

23 comments:

  1. I hope the jurors get some of the compensation. Imagine having to sit through that lot.
    I'm surprised that Thatcher didn't get some blame if only for banning school milk and making folks bones more fragile.
    It is a load of nonsense. The police should have just said the job was beyond them and it was an act of god with a bit of Scouse help. Another two year enquiry into Heysel? No Liverpool won that fracas but lost the match.

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    1. It must have been harrowing to be one of those jurors. No wonder they didn't all make it to the final day.

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  2. That it has taken 27 years confounds me....

    Same old story...everyone trying to pass the buck...

    Why so many extra people were allowed to enter that area when it was obvious, or should have been obvious, it was already at full capacity beggars belief.

    Perhaps I shouldn't pass comment/opinion being so far away...but the tragedy is not unknown to us down this way. Much has been written about it and been documented on television through the years...the many years since lives were taken and families torn apart.

    As was sung today...they will never walk alone...those who were killed that fateful day will remain cherished forever in the memories of their loved ones.

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    1. The innocent dead were never at fault. They were in the ground long before the match started and had no idea what was happening behind them. None of those who arrived late died in the disaster.

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  3. I moved to sheffield three months before the disaster.
    I remember it well

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    1. That day is imprinted in all of our minds. I think they should tear down Sheffield Wednesday's ground and build a new ground nearby or out by The Parkway.

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  4. I was in Harrogate that weekend on a two day conference from work and I remember seeing the developments on tv during a break.

    Nothing will convince me that the actions of some Liverpool fans contributed to the tragedy that followed. That is the way that some football fans behaved back then and probably would now were it not for better organised grounds.

    What has annoyed me is the reaction whenever anyone dares to make such a comment. Things are deliberately confused in my opinion and any suggestion that some fans had a least some responsibility for what happened that day is interpretted as blaming those that died for bringing their deaths upon themselves. When no-one has said any such thing.

    I suspect that what we have seen is a political solution to a very vocal problem from an emotionally incontinent city. The fact that this conclusion was reached on a majority verdict of seven speaks volumes.

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    1. That second para should start: Nothing will convince me that the actions of some Liverpool fans didn't contribute to the tragedy that followed.

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    2. Thanks for the correction Ian. I was slightly confused at first but now I see that our opinions match. Your description of the outcome as "a political solution" seems spot on to me but shhhhh... - we mustn't say this too loudly.

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  5. Mistakes were made on more than one part there; for instance, how were the ticketless fans you mentioned able to enter the grounds in the first place? I have never tried to get in at any concert or other event without a ticket, but I am pretty sure I wouldn't simply be able to walk in, unnoticed and unhindered.
    I am very sorry for those who lost a friend, partner, family member that day but like you, I feel justice is not fully served in exonerating everyone. Some DID do the pushing, and some WERE too drunk and too egoistic to care.

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    1. How did the ticketless fans get in? They milled around near the outer gate on Leppings Lane and created such a crush that the police felt obliged to relieve the pressure by simply opening the gates. Nobody knows how many Liverpool fans came to Sheffield that day without match tickets but there were plenty.

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  6. I have read a few articles on that day since you first mentioned it in one of your previous posts. I had before that time never known about this tragedy. I do not think that anyone except the officials of the football stadium and the security should be blamed. FIt was tradition then to allow ticketless fans in at the last moments before the beginning of the match. From what I read, they waited too long to open the outside pens and one was not opened at all. They knew how many people had entered in the second cohort and had to know it was way too many without the secondary pens being opened. At least that is what I have garnered from my reading and research.

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    1. It was never a tradition to let ticketless fans in but many ticketless fans came from Liverpool that day and they created a swelling crowd by the outer gates. To relieve that pressure the police match commander ordered the gates to be opened and they stormed into the ground intent on securing the best vantage points they could. It was this second wave of pressure that killed the innocent 96.

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    2. I stand corrected then, Mr. Pudding.

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    3. Your first assessment is more in line with the final judgement at the inquest than my portrayal is so maybe you should not stand corrected.

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  7. I only know the what happened on that day from articles on my BBC News Feed. I don't understand what pens where but the other day when they made film of where the fans went. It is still very confusing to me.
    It was just such a sad day.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. In those days football fans were caged in. They were trapped behind the wire fences. As a result of what happened at Hillsborough, the fences came down across the country and we moved to all-seater stadiums. The attitude of the authorities towards football fans also changed for the better.

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  8. Surely there must be some Liverpool fans that have wondered about how their actions helped cause this terrible disaster...so very sad.

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    1. I agree Libby but I don't think that any of them have come forward... nor were they questioned at the two year inquest. Why would anybody turn up at a major sports event without a ticket?

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  9. I was living in Liverpool at the time and often went to Anfield. Liverpool fans were always well behaved - they weren't hooligans like the Leeds fans I knew from home. I remember the feelings of anger and disbelief in the city after Hillsborough, compounded by the fact that 'loutish drunken fans' were being blamed by the media, police and government for the disaster. I don't remember Liverpool fans being like that - they took their football seriously in the Dalglish era. (As Bill Shankly said "football isn't a matter of life and death - it's more important than that"). You have to remember this was a time when the rest of the UK seemed to have it in for Liverpool - the era of Derek Hatton and Boys from the Blackstuff. Scousers were automatically assumed to be unemployed scroungers - the stereotype perpetuated by Harry Enfield. I do remember the reaction of the Liverpool fans who had been there - they knew it was the police who had got things badly wrong. But it was Liverpool fans who got the blame. And these opinions were from 'respectable' fans - including medical students and law students who were at uni with me. Until then I'd always trusted the police. After that, and what I heard about Orgreave, not so much. There's a good article on the police mishandling of Hillsborough here: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/apr/26/hillsborough-disaster-deadly-mistakes-and-lies-that-lasted-decades

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    1. Thank you for your well-considered response Michael. Were they all well-behaved in the Heysel Stadium on May 29th 1985? Thank you for the link - I am going there now.

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  10. Your assessment seems to me to have the ring of fact. I say that as a Liverpudlian. That does not excuse any of the incompetence or cover up of course. Admitting incompetence and culpability is, however, never easy.

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    1. If I had been a Liverpool supporter, I would have been in the ground early and not one of those pushing from the back after arriving late. Nowadays it Feels very strange to sit in the Leppings Lane stand when supporting Hull City against Sheffield Wednesday. It doesn't seem right.

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