The Hillsborough inquest verdict

Today a momentous verdict was delivered relating to the Hillsborough football disaster.

According to Wikipedia:The Hillsborough disaster was a human crush that caused the deaths of 96 people and injured 766 others, at a football match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, England, on 15 April 1989. The match was the 1988–89 FA Cup semi-final, with Hillsborough, home ground of Sheffield Wednesday, selected as a neutral venue. In English football, most stadiums had steel fencing between the spectators and the playing field in order to prevent friendly and hostile pitch invasions. The crush occurred in pens in the Leppings Lane stand, allocated to Liverpool fans. The 1990 official inquiry into the disaster, the Taylor Report, concluded that “the main reason for the disaster was the failure of police control.”

According to today’s BBC report to today’s inquest verdict:Ninety-six football fans who died as a result of a crush in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster were unlawfully killed, the inquests have concluded. The jury found match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield was “responsible for manslaughter by gross negligence” due to a breach of his duty of care. Police errors also added to a dangerous situation at the FA Cup semi-final. After a 27-year campaign by victims’ families, the behaviour of Liverpool fans was exonerated. The jury found they did not contribute to the danger unfolding at the turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday’s ground on 15 April 1989”.

It beggars belief that it has taken 27 years to reach such a verdict and it is still not over as there may still be criminal proceedings. For the grieving relatives and friends, while today’s verdict may provide dome vindication and a sense of closure, what happened on that fateful day that led to the death of their loved ones, will forever be etched on their minds. Like many, who recall so vividly what happened on that day, I will continue to struggle to make sense of what can only be described as a tragedy of monumental proportions.

While I am committed, at least for the time being, to blog about events that I believe to be significant and important that I have some insights into, it would be remiss of me to pontificate on matters that I do not know or understand. I do remember so well the shock and grief felt by so many that was not only felt by football fans that did not support Liverpool but also by the much wider world. It is a sad irony that four years prior was another tragedy that involved Liverpool FC: The Heysel Stadium disaster occurred on 29 May 1985 when escaping fans were pressed against a collapsing wall in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, before the start of the 1985 European Cup Final between Juventus of Italy and Liverpool of England. 39 people—mostly Italians and Juventus fans—were killed and 600 were injured.

The aftermath of the event led to far greater attention to safety at football grounds, including all seater stadiums. For some time prior to the tragedy there were concerns raised about bad behavior among fans, and the “wars” taking place between rival sets of fans. Led infamously by the Sun newspaper reporting, a lot of went on that day that led to the disaster was wrongly attributed to fan misbehavior spurred on by vital evidence being falsified including, shockingly by the police, to deflect from their own incompetence. It has taken a long time for the truth to come out and maybe it never will in its entirety. What we now know is that the disaster had little to do with fans acting wrongly and much to do with wrong action or inaction by those who were meant to be taking care of them, as well as an outrageous cover up, it would seem that was led by the police. The one thing that can never be brought back are the lives of those who died and the sorrowful fact is that the actions that might have taken place to prevent many of those deaths weren’t.

I can only conclude by expressing the grief I felt 27 years ago when I learned of the tragedy. I can only reiterate my condolences to those who lost family and friends. Without wanting to exonerate any that were culpable in wrongdoing, especially if falsifying evidence, I recognize for most the consequences of those actions will always be on their minds and wish that they find healing. While it seems empty to say so, I hope lessons will be learned, nevertheless we owe it to those who died to learn those lessons. I hope truth will prevail and all involved will defer to the truth. But life also goes on and we owe it those who died to live life to the full in honour of their memory and not to become bitter and twisted.

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