This article is certain to evoke a lot of emotion amongst fans and family of victims alike. Whilst the wounds may be old,but the pain i am sure will ensure for years to come. But just what happened at Hillsborough such that more than 30 years on people still talk about it. So I did a little investigating of my own to find out what really happened.
Whilst I was a young boy in 1989, I still remember the news coming on and the anchor saying scores of soccer supporters had perished at a stadium in Sheffield,England. The Stadiums in England those days from people who went to them in that era where ,well to say the least, a matter of surviving the 2 hours if you had the guts to go. English football’s reputation had been one of hooliganism. So it’s not a surprise that the police in Sheffield found an easy scapegoat in Liverpool fans. It certainly didn’t help that Liverpool fans were implicated in the crush at Heysel Stadium in Belgium just 4 years earlier.
In my opinion the Hillsborough Stadium disaster was caused by three things,crowd control error,stadium structure error and fixture planning error. I will start with crowd control error. This was the FA Cup semi final for Christ’s sake and the Yorkshire police decide to hand over the match to a relative novice(come on). David Duckenfield was faced with a decision to open the turnstill gates to Leppings Lane with a crowd swelling up outside. Can you imagine the pressure?But it does not excuse the negligence. He could have easily called for a postponement of the match. But he didn’t. The behavior of stewards around the turf was equally deplorable. To watch helplessly as people suffocate shows a degree of detachment,and sociopathy that sadly stadium police had generated due to confirmation bias. I am not going to even dignify the assertion that drunken 7 year olds were to blame, with a comment.Duckenfield may have escaped judicial punishment but his moral culpability still remains.
Stadium structure. In those days stadia in England were more like death traps than entertainment venues. The premier league money was still years to come so clubs did not have the funding to pay staff decently let alone build state of the art venues. Standing areas dominated many stadia including Hillsborough. Leppings Lane was one such stand. There was no way to account for number of fans in that stand come 1500hrs kick off. Numbered seats would have solved this. A perimeter fence separated fans and fans from the pitch( a legacy of hooliganism no doubt). The fence proved to be weapon of mass destruction as it not only suffocated the fans but prevented help from reaching the distressed persons. I am pleased to say the Taylor Report dealt with stadium structure issues in depth.
Lastly fixture planning. Moving the match ahead at 3pm was a colossal mistake in my honest opinion. If that match had started at 4pm probably fans would have had ample time to travel from Nottingham and Liverpool and have time to settle before the game started. All that being said what happened at Hillsborough will not be repeated in England due to advances in technology as well as better training of officers. The tragedy of losing 96 people in their prime can never ever be erased in memory for sure.