On April 15, 1989, the Liverpool Football Club was set to play an FA Cup semifinal game against Nottingham Forest. The teams were hosted at Hillsborough Stadium, in Sheffield, England. Instead of a football match, what unfolded within minutes of the game starting was an unbelievable tragedy: the Hillsborough disaster.
A total of 96 people lost their lives in a human crush, with supporters of the Liverpool FC being channeled into a fenced area behind the goal that was much too small for the crowd. Hundreds of others were injured in the incident, the darkest day in the history of the club – and in English sports history.
So what happened at Hillsborough Stadium that day, and what were the events that led to the deaths there? Although the police initially blamed the behavior of the fans for the deaths, the situation was far more complex than it first appears; crowd mismanagement on the part of stadium authorities has led to ongoing criminal investigations into what happened that day. Regardless of where the blame lies, the pain caused to victims and their families can be easily seen in the haunting Hillsborough disaster pictures, and it can be felt through the stories of those who survived.
To Escape Culpability, Police Reports Were AlteredPhoto: 911tourettes / Youtube
In the 21st century, the South Yorkshire Police Department has come under serious fire for the way they managed the crowd that day, from their refusal to delay the game to their unwillingness to address the uneven distribution of the pens, despite having CCTV footage that showed them what was going on.
After the tragedy, the first unorthodox thing that the South Yorkshire Police Department did was allow officers to take the statements of their own coworkers, who were under investigation. On top of that, they were asked to write their statements on plain paper instead of on proper witness reports, as all of the supporters had done. The reports were then edited by senior officers, with comments criticizing the police rather than the fans removed from 116 of the statements.
There Were Multiple Inquests Into The Deaths
At the first official inquest into the deaths of the 96 victims in 1991, the ruling was accidental death. However, a second inquest was done in 2016, and it significantly changed the story. One of the law enforcement officers involved in the incident, David Duckenfield, originally claimed that fans had forced open Gate C (the pen where the majority of the crush occurred) to come rushing in. He changed his statement in 2016 to finally admit the truth – that he was the one who ordered the gate to be opened. In the end, the second inquest removed the blame from the fans and placed it squarely on law enforcement officers who were seen as having neglected their duties. Six people, including Duckenfield, were charged with criminal offenses.
The Disaster Led To Stadium Safety Improvements
The crush at Hillsborough had a dramatic effect on the safety practices of football stadiums. Standing terraces were essentially done away with, and rail seating became seen as the viable alternative. Now, all tickets are for specific seats in the stadium. This also helps police with using CCTV to catch people who might be misbehaving.