At last we have had something like the real story behind the 1989 disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, at the semi-final between Liverpool and
and the shoddiness of the handling and cover-up of what occurred. Nottingham Forest
It was during the 1970’s when there were about three or four times when I went to the Sheffield Wednesday Hillsborough ground. One was the semi-final in 1974 when Newcastle United beat
Burnley 2-0 in what was a tight technical game. Malcolm McDonald got loose a couple of times
and that was it. In the Cup Final at
Wembley that year Liverpool made sure he did
not get loose and won 3-0.
Like very many soccer grounds it had a lot of unsatisfactory features arising from locations in built up older parts of the cities and occasional extensions that were not planned for comfort, for convenience of admission or leaving or for safety. It was certainly buyer beware when you paid for your entrance.
Which is why, when I took any of the young ones it was seats that were chosen. This arose from long experience of many grounds from the early 1940’s onwards. There were quite a few with standing areas that were a horror and with casual policing. The Shed at Molyneux was a bad one but typical of too many.
One ground I had been to was the old
Burnden Park at Bolton, the Wanderers ground where a disaster
had occurred on 9 March 1946 at a cup tie against . The steep bank behind one of the goals was
bad at any time with a large crowd, but when the number of fans well exceeded
any reasonable limit it took only a minor accident to trigger a major disaster. Stoke City
There was a report into this, the Moelwyn Hughes Report which recommended that clear crowd limits should be established and adhered to with better policing. In the next forty years this was honoured far more in the breach than the observance. Even if a sensible figure for crowd limits was established it was common for a combination of bad management and limited policing to allow more in.
In fact in some cases where the number of those wanting to see the match was far higher than the ground could take the restricted areas outside the ground were just as much of a danger. In cases of this kind it was not unknown for many to be let in because it was thought safer than leaving them outside with no control.
entrance to Hillsborough had always been difficult under pressure either to get
in or to get out. Which was why after a
game many fans simply hopped over the low wall to use other exits at the end of
a game as was often the case in other places.
The trouble was that when pitch invasions by hooligan elements became fashionable many grounds put up strong fencing to keep the fans off the pitch at all costs, which meant that it became impossible to get to any less used exits. Hillsborough was one such ground having had problems with local “skinheads”.
Skipping all the fancy theory of risk and the rest many grounds were big accidents waiting to happen. The trouble was that neither the football authorities, the clubs nor some local police forces recognised this and in any case did not regard themselves as having much, if any, responsibility for real crowd control.
All this was well known and essentially just part of the football furniture. It was common at many full grounds for the
to be busy and for people to be carted off to hospital or passed down to the
pitch edge over the heads of fans. All
this was one reason why in maturity I avoided the standing areas. St. John’s
Also, it was why when I saw the footage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 it was crystal clear to me that it was not the fans that were at fault. The
Lane end was difficult whenever it was full. So there had to be a gross failure of control
both inside and outside the ground.
But that was the whole point of organising grounds, controlling and managing the areas outside to ensure that the flows and movement of people were satisfactory and inside to ensure limits were kept and the “bunching” that could occur did not. At Hillsborough none of this happened.
That much of the media at that time, notably the Murdoch press, could neither admit what was a well known and long standing problem nor that very serious questions arose from the whole nature of the disaster was disgusting. In particular that of the “Sun” was filth journalism at its worst.
Murdoch and MacKenzie went on to many more profitable things and they and their friends ensured that the memory of those lost was smeared and their families robbed of any justice. They, at the time, were probably those placed to seek and tell the truth and they did not.
So what does this tell us about our media and their friends?