The Hillsborough Disaster, A Guide for the Stupid Football Fan

26 04 2016

I wrote this 5 years ago. The truth was available 26 years ago if you knew where to look.

The Hillsborough disaster is back in the news. There is an e-petition to sign if you would like our government to release documents related to the disaster.

I used to think that the truth was self-evident about Hillsborough; it was a disaster caused by a mixture of Police negligence and Thatcher’s policies. I thought the disaster was held with the same regard by all football fans because there was the potential for something like this to have happened at certain grounds at other times. It turns out that I was a little naive about this universal attitude.

Some people think that Liverpool fans are partly, if not wholly to blame for killing their own fans. Other people don’t like the sound of ‘Whinging Scousers” from “self-pity city” spouting off. I’ve challenged one or two of them on Twitter about this attitude.  They rather alarmingly, justify their view by mentioning the Heysel stadium disaster as if this was proof that “Liverpool fans caused Hillsborough”, despite the fact that Hillsborough disaster has nothing whatsoever to do with this very shameful event.

Others go on to highlight the behaviour of Liverpool fans in Athens as a further justification for their view, as if a few scallies robbing tickets off fans is equivalent to being crushed to death.

Morons will use both events to say this “just shows what Liverpool fans (and scousers) are like”. In other words they are using their petty prejudices about scousers to justify the fact that 96 people were crushed to death at a football match.

There is no greater example of the pernicious effect of Murdoch’s tabloid than this mass logic failure. Some people have swallowed the MacKenzie line about Liverpool fans hook, line and sinker. Some of these people have used other events to create a mental tapestry about Liverpool fans that justifies the death of 96 football fans.

I wonder if any of them have ever imagined what 96 people being crushed to death involves, what it feels like, what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it smells like. Have they ever thought about the guilt of the survivors? Have they fuck, if they had thought about Hillsborough like that they wouldn’t have made their comments.

These people make me ashamed to be a football fan.

For these idiots I have gone to the trouble of reading through the Taylor Report and I’ve highlighted the salient points in red. I’ve also  highlighted the cause Lord Justice Taylor formulated in blue. Remember this is not some “jaundiced Scouser” writing about the disaster. The report was written by a judge employed by the government to find out what happened.

 Here are the edited highlights of the “Taylor Report” (You will see that Lord Justice Taylor doesn’t blame Liverpool fans for the disaster)

36. The effect of the decision was that for this all-ticket Cup Tie, Liverpool were allotted only 24,256 places as against 29,800 for Nottingham Forest. This, although average attendance of supporters at home matches was substantially higher at Liverpool than at Nottingham. Moreover, with standing tickets at £6 and seats at £12, Nottingham Forest had 21,000 standing places compared with Liverpool’s 10,100. So, Liverpool’s allocation was more expensive as well as smaller. Understandably, Liverpool were aggrieved by the allocation of places and tickets. They sought with some support from the host club and the FA to have it changed in 1988, but the police were adamant. To switch ends would, in their opinion, have involved rival supporters crossing each other’s paths when approaching the ground thereby frustrating attempts at segregation and creating a risk of disorder. In 1989, when the same plan was proposed, Liverpool again challenged it. The police, however, maintained their view, adding that those who had attended in 1988 would be familiar with the arrangements and that any change would lead to confusion.

78. In the control room no-one noticed the overcrowding or anything amiss in pens 3 and 4 until the first fans spilt out onto the perimeter track just before kick-off. Then, the officers in command assumed that there was an attempted pitch invasion. They called up reserve serials waiting in the gymnasium and all available officers elsewhere to go to the pitch. A request was made to HQ for dog handlers.

Misinformation

98. At about 3.15 pm, Mr Graham Kelly, Chief Executive of the FA, Mr Kirton also of the FA and Mr Graham Mackrell, Secretary of Sheffield Wednesday, went to the control room for information. Mr Duckenfield told them he thought there were fatalities and the game was likely to be abandoned. He also said a gate had been forced and there had been an inrush of Liverpool supporters. He pointed to one of the television screens focussed on gate C by the Leppings Lane turnstiles and said “That’s the gate that’s been forced: there’s been an inrush”. Inevitably Mr Kelly was interviewed a little later live on television. He spoke of the two stories concerning the gate – the fans’ account that the police had opened it, the police assertion that the fans had forced their way in.

116. The overcrowding up to 2.52 pm was due to a number of factors which can be considered broadly under three heads.

(i) The layout at the Leppings Lane end.

(ii) Lack of fixed capacities for the pens,

(iii) Lack of effective monitoring of the terraces.

You may have noticed that the behaviour of Liverpool fans is not called into question

117. The crushing and fatalities after 2.52 pm must be considered under a number of headings.

(iv) The build-up at the turnstiles.

(v) The blunder on opening the gates.

(vi) The barriers in pen 3.

(vii) The crushing not recognised,

(viii) The response of the police.

(ix) The perimeter gates were too small.

123. As already mentioned, there was crushing at the Cup semi-final in 1981. The match was between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers. The police debriefing minutes after the incident prophetically refer, “to the late arrival of a large number of spectators who were still waiting to enter the Leppings Lane enclosure when the match started. The flash point occurred when Tottenham scored” (at the Kop end) “after only three minutes. The spectators just entering pushed forward to see what was happening and caused a crush, which resulted in the injuries”.

166. What is clear, however, is that de facto the police at Hillsborough had accepted responsibility for control of the pens at the Leppings Lane end. The evidence of the senior officers who had been concerned with policing at Hillsborough over the years was all one way on this point. Only Mr Duckenfield, who had not policed at Hillsborough for some 10 years prior to 15 April, took a different view.

183. Although the police had accepted de facto responsibility for monitoring the pens, their policy on the day was to leave fans to “find their own level” and to concentrate their own attention on possible disorder. Whilst in theory the police would intervene if a pen became “full”, in practice they permitted the test of fullness to be what the fans would tolerate.

184. By 2.52 pm when gate C was opened, pens 3 and 4 were over-full even by this test. Many were uncomfortable. To allow any more into those pens was likely to cause injuries; to allow in a large stream was courting disaster.

191. Between 2.30 pm and 2.40 pm the crowd waiting for the turnstiles swelled to over 5,000 and became unmanageable. The case made for the police was that large numbers of Liverpool supporters arrived late; a high proportion of them were drunk and unco-operative; a high proportion had no tickets; all of them were hell-bent on getting in on time. They say this was unforeseeable and explains why they lost control.

192. Whether those who arrived between 2.30 pm and 2.40 pm were “late” was much debated. The ticket simply requested its holder “to take up [his] position 15 minutes before kick-off. That may have been intended to persuade those with stand tickets to take their seats, but it would not be unreasonable for a standing spectator to arrive at the turnstiles between 2.30 pm and 2.40 pm. Whether they were “late” or not, however, there was certainly a large concentration of Liverpool fans arriving at about 2.30 pm and after.

196. Of those who arrived at 2.30 pm or after, very many had been drinking at public houses or had brought drink from home or an off-licence. I am satisfied on the evidence, however, that the great majority were not drunk nor even the worse for drink. The police witnesses varied on this. Some described a high proportion as drunk, as “lager-louts” or even as “animals”. Others described a generally normal crowd with an unco-operative minority who had drunk too much. In my view some officers, seeking to rationalise their loss of control, overestimated the drunken element in the crowd. There certainly was such an element. There were youngsters influenced by drink and bravado pushing impatiently at the rear of the crowd thereby exacerbating the crush. But the more convincing police witnesses, including especially Detective Superintendent McKay and Chief Inspector Creaser as well as a number of responsible civilian witnesses, were in my view right in describing this element as a minority. Those witnesses attributed the crush to the sheer numbers of fans all anxious to gain entry. There was no criticism of the crowd by any of the witnesses in the period up to 2.30 pm or even 2.35 pm. What happened then was not a sudden deterioration in the mood or sobriety of those assembled there. No doubt those coming behind would have had more to drink and would have included the unruly minority. But the crisis developed because this very large crowd became packed into a confined turnstile area and its very density hampered its passage through the turnstiles.

197. Superintendent Marshall and other officers criticised the crowd as unco-operative because police exhortations to stop pushing and to ease back were not heeded. How could they be? In that crush most people had no control over their movements at all. Two incidents involving police horses illustrate the point. One horse was found afterwards to have cigarette burns on its rump. Clearly that was the despicable work of a hooligan whether in drink or not. However, there were also eyewitness accounts of a horse being physically lifted off its feet by the crowd. That occurred, as the police accepted, without malice or intent but as an involuntary consequence of crowd pressure which those by the horse’s flanks could not resist any more than the horse itself.

200. It has become a fact of football life that fans do turn up at all-ticket matches without tickets. It is not possible to give an accurate figure or even a reliable estimate of the number without tickets on 15 April. Police estimates varied from about 200 to about 2,000. There were certainly frequent requests for tickets or “spares” during the hours before the build-up. Many of those warned off by the police were seen to return to the area. Some were hanging about on the bridge. Again, however, the police witnesses who most impressed me did not consider the number of ticketless fans to be inordinately large. This accords with two other sources of evidence.

201. First, there was a wide range of witnesses who observed inside the ground that the Liverpool end was at a late stage well below capacity save for pens 3 and 4. The north stand still had many empty seats and the wing pens were sparse. The match being a sell-out, there were clearly many ticket holders to come and they could account for the large crowd still outside the turnstiles. Had the Liverpool accommodation been full by 2.40 pm, one could have inferred that most or much of the large crowd outside lacked tickets.

202. Secondly, such figures as are available from the Club’s electronic monitoring system and from analyses by the HSE suggest that no great number entered without tickets. They show that the number who passed through turnstiles A to G plus those who entered through gate C roughly equalled the terrace capacity figure of 10,100 for which tickets had been sold. The Club’s record showed 7,038 passed through turnstiles A to G.

However, the counting mechanism on turnstile G was defective, so the HSE did a study using the video film and projecting figures from the other turnstiles. This gave an assessment of 7,494, with a maximum of 7,644 passing through A to G. Again, using the video, the HSE assessed the number who entered the ground whilst gate C was open at 2,240 with a maximum of 2,480. Accordingly, the HSE’s best estimate of the total entering through gate C and turnstiles A to G was 9,734 with a maximum of 10,124.1 recognise that these can only be rough checks because, for example, some with terrace tickets were allowed through turnstiles 1 to 16 and there would be other similar factors which have not formed part of the assessment. Nevertheless, the figures do suggest that there was not a very significant body of ticketless fans in the crowd which built up.

The “Conspiracy” Theory

203. On behalf of South Yorkshire police, the theory was advanced that the “late” arrival of so many Liverpool supporters was planned to buck the system. The suggestion was that fans without tickets conspired to arrive late and create such trouble as would force the police to admit them to the match. The slender evidence upon which this theory rested came from two sources: overheard conversations in public houses and the antecedent history of Liverpool supporters at away matches.

204. One witness said he heard three Liverpool supporters saying, in effect, that they would manage to get in without tickets by causing trouble so that police would open a gate, and that they had done this before. Another witness heard two of a group of Liverpool supporters say they had no tickets, that they would go to the ground just before kick-off, that no-one would stop them getting in and that they had not been stopped yet. Statements were put in relating to two other small groups talking in similar terms.

Liverpool Supporters at Away Matches

205. The South Yorkshire police prepared a dossier of reports on the behaviour of Liverpool fans at away matches with the object of showing a pattern of troublesome behaviour by large numbers either without tickets or with forged tickets. Without setting out the whole history, it can be summarised as follows.

206. On three occasions Liverpool fans without tickets were allowed into all-ticket matches upon payment. (At Watford on 13 February 1988, 1,500 were admitted; at Southampton on 24 September 1988, 150 were admitted; at Southampton again on 12 December 1988, 750 were admitted.) At Norwich on 1 April 1989, Liverpool supporters arrived without tickets but 1,272 tickets had been returned and fans from both Liverpool and Norwich were allowed to buy them for cash. A similar situation occurred at Wimbledon on 13 May 1989. There were six other occasions from 1986 to date, including the Cup finals of 1986 and 1989, when numbers of Liverpool supporters turned up without tickets or otherwise behaved badly.

207. Four points must be noted, however. On none of the occasions when ticketless fans were admitted for payment was the match a sell-out. There was therefore room in the ground on each occasion. At a sell-out fans might not expect to be allowed in, even for payment. Secondly, no trouble of the kind alleged was encountered at the 1988 semi-final when Liverpool visited Hillsborough. Thirdly, Liverpool visited Hillsborough again in January 1989 without any trouble. Finally, no forged tickets were in use on 15 April apart from three crude photocopies.

No Conspiracy

208. I have already found that there was not an abnormally large number of fans without tickets on this occasion. With one or two exceptions, the police witnesses themselves did not subscribe to the “conspiracy” theory. I am satisfied that the large concentration at Leppings Lane from 2.30 pm to 2.50 pm did not arrive as a result of any concerted plan. There were, I accept, small groups without tickets who were willing to exploit any adventitious chance of getting into the ground. They, together with the minority who had drunk too much, certainly aggravated the problem faced by the police. But that main problem was simply one of large numbers packed into the small area outside the turnstiles.

214. As to 1988, there was a very large and consistent body of evidence that, on the day, the police in Leppings Lane conducted an efficient filtering exercise designed to keep away those without tickets and control the flow of fans towards the ground. I do not believe that so many witnesses without either opportunity or reason to put their heads together could be mistaken about what they experienced on that occasion. Yet, the police maintain that no filtering exercise other than on a random basis was conducted in 1988 and that their policy and practice then were no different from those of 1989.

215. The answer to this conflict must, I think, be that whilst the policy may have been no different, in practice the policing in 1988 was more efficient and was not put to the same test and strain as a year later. There was not so large a swell in numbers approaching the ground from 2.30 pm to 2.50 pm as in 1989. Nevertheless, there had been warning signs in 1988. Detective Superintendent McKay gave the following evidence:

229. The decision to order the opening of the gates was not accompanied or followed by any other order to deal with the consequences. When gate C was opened, a steady stream of about 2,000 fans poured through it over some five minutes. Clearly they were going to go into the ground somewhere and unless they were diverted their likeliest route was through the tunnel for reasons already given. No warning was issued from the control room that the gate was to be opened. Serials on the concourse were not alerted. Neither the Club control room nor the Chief Steward at the Leppings Lane end was warned. Not even Mr Greenwood, the Ground Commander, was informed. From 2.47 pm when Mr Marshall made his first request until 2.52 pm when Mr Duckenfield acceded to it, there were five minutes in which orders could have been given as to how the influx was to be absorbed. It was not done. In evidence, Mr Duckenfield began by saying that no officer made any wrong decision but he later conceded he had erred in this regard. He said he did not consider where the people would go when the gate opened. Even after it opened, when he could see the influx on the television screen, no order was given to steer the fans to the wing pens. Mr Duckenfield said it did not cross his mind to detail officers on the concourse to shut off the tunnel. Those officers could not have known from their position how full pens 3 and 4 were. That was a matter for the control room to monitor from its own observations and using intelligence from around the ground.

230. Since pens 3 and 4 were full by 2.50 pm, the tunnel should have been closed off whether gate C was to be opened or not. The exercise was a simple one and had been carried out in 1988. All that was necessary was for a few officers to act as a cordon at the entrance to the tunnel and divert fans elsewhere. Unfortunately, the 1988 closure seems to have been unknown to the senior officers on duty at the time. It did not figure in the debriefing notes. It therefore had no influence on the planning for 1989.

Mr Hicks’ Evidence

1. Mr and Mrs Hicks’ two daughters died in the disaster. They had arrived early en famille but had tickets for different sections. The two daughters had standing tickets; they went into pen 3. Mrs Hicks had a seat in the north stand. Mr Hicks took up a standing position in pen 1 just below and to the west of the police box at about 2.15 pm From there, he had a view of the centre pens. He kept an eye on them as they filled up since he knew his daughters to be there.

2. His evidence was that by 2.50 pm he could see people were in distress. At about 2.55 pm he and others called to a senior police officer at the top of the steps to the control box to draw his attention to the crushing. Mr Hicks was only about 10 feet from the officer. He described him as wearing a flat cap with gold or silver braid and a light coloured anorak. Mr Hicks believed he was the officer who stopped the match. Mr Greenwood, who did stop the match, was certainly not wearing a light coloured anorak, as can clearly be seen on the video.

3. Mr Hicks says that he and others shouted several times to this officer in attempts to alert him to the distress in the pens. There was no reaction although Mr Hicks believes the officer must have been in earshot.

4. That officer descended from the steps and two cameramen whom Mr Hicks believed were from television came and appeared to direct their cameras towards the pens. Another senior officer appeared two steps down from the platform. He was a stocky figure; he also wore a flat cap but with black braid. Mr Hicks says that he and two or three others tried several times to capture this officer’s attention without success. Then Mr Hicks says he shouted “For Christ’s sake! Can’t you see what’s going on? We can, and you have cameras”. The officer is said to have replied dismissively “Shut your fucking prattle”.

You look at what being a  football fan has become and you wonder if it’s worth bothering with any more.

It used to be about mild joshing between work mates and friends now it’s about hate and venom. A whole generation of “fans”, or “morons” if you prefer, is being led to believe that “hate” is one of the default settings – the others being “mindless banter” and “epileptic paroxysms of joy” – and there is no middle ground between these default settings.

The old ideas of camaraderie and bonhomie are further eroded by this media conditioning. Where fans may have once had a chat,  they now feel compelled to denigrate by using words like “scum”If you think this is far-fetched then why do people react negatively about the quest for justice in relation to the Hillsborough disaster, a disaster where 96 football fans lost their lives because they went to a football match. This should affect all football fans equally.

Hillsborough was not solely a football tragedy, it was  a human tragedy. The families of the victims deserve justice.

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11 responses

13 09 2012
The trouble with scumbags and Hillsborough……….. « Llandudno Jet Set

[…] little over twenty three years ago the Lord Justice Taylor found that the main cause of the Hillsborough disaster was the failure of police control, […]

22 03 2012
Kowalski

Very eloquent post, I like it!

22 03 2012
hstorm

I know this is a somewhat late intervention, but I only just discovered this blogpost, and I thought I should offer delhistreet my own take on why this is important.

It’s not the Disaster itself that is the main reason for ongoing anger – although certainly there *are* a lot of people out there who misunderstand it (most of them, admittedly, are not football fans, but why does that make their ignorant, at times hurtful, views any less important?) and it’s worthwhile setting them straight on what really happened.

But the continuing wound is more a matter of what transpired in the months that followed. There was a protracted campaign by the South Yorkshire Police to shift the blame for what happened onto the victims. It wasn’t just a smear, it was corruption on a shocking level. CCTV tapes showing what had happened in the central pens ‘mysteriously’ disappeared on the night after the Disaster; the CCTV camera feeding them was wrongly listed as being out of order. Over a hundred and eighty statements given by police officers about the events on the day were falsified before submission to the Taylor Inquiry. Two witnesses who saw that a victim called Kevin Williams, later listed as dead by 3:15pm (the notorious ‘cut-off’ time for the Inquests), was in fact alive as late as 4pm, and so might have survived had correct medical treatment been applied earlier. Both witnesses later reported being pressured into changing their statements.

The cut-off time of 3:15 assumed that all the injuries suffered by the deceased were inflicted by then, in which case they were already certain to die, so no infomation from after that time was assessed by the Coroner’s Inquests. But seeing so many of the survivors of the Disaster (such as Eddie Spearrit and Andrew Devine) suffered identical injuries at the same time but lived on, this assumption was clearly wrong. Why did they survive where others did not? We simply don’t know, because the Inquests never looked into that.

This is why the Inquests should be re-opened, because they were a skimp-effort, and made dangerous assumptions. Especially in the case of Kevin Williams, who was still alive so long after suffering his injuries, it must be at least possible that earlier intervention could have saved him.

“The point is, no one person, or group of people, was to blame for the disaster”
True, there were numerous groups who were to blame. The SYP for neglecting to follow established crowd control procedures, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club for the shoddy condition of the Leppings Lane End of the stadium (among many other details, the crush barrier that broke was found to be sixty years old and perforated by corrosion), the FA for ignoring the scores of complaints they received the previous year from fans worried about the safety of the terraces, and Sheffield City Council for letting the stadium’s safety certificate drift ten years out of date, in spite of so many modifications being made to the Leppings Lane terrace in between times.

But the thing is, no one from *any* of these groups has ever really been made to give proper account for their actions. Take the police Match Commander. Superintendent David Duckenfield was a complete novice at policing football matches. So when his predecessor, Superintendent Brian Mole, a man with many years’ experience policing football crowds, offered to come back for that weekend to take command of the operation, why did Duckenfield refuse? Do you know why? I’d be surprised if you do, because, again, he’s never had to explain it to anyone, and he always refuses to answer when he’s asked about it. When the police charged him with misconduct, Duckenfield simply retired on grounds of ill-health, which immediately terminated the proceedings. He now gets an annual pension of £25,000-plus per year at the taxpayers’ expense. He has also never had to offer a satisfactory answer for why, on the day of the Disaster, he didn’t filter the fans into queues as they approached the stadium in accordance with precedent, which might have prevented the bottleneck forming at the turnstiles, or why, when he saw that the central pens were full, he didn’t close access to them, but instead had an announcement put out on the tannoy asking the fans in the pens to move forward and make room for new arrivals (!).

I’m not saying Duckenfield should be imprisoned for these decisions, but he needs to hold up his hand, admit the mistakes he made, and publically account for them. You say, “What’s the point?” but it’s a critical part of allowing the bereaved to find closure. Instead, he’s getting paid tens of thousands a year as a reward for not having the courage to face those he did wrong by, and who were grotesquely smeared by his colleagues in an attempt to protect his reputation.

So I would suggest that the injustice isn’t just ‘perceived’. Yes, it’s good that lessons have been learned from Hillsborough, but these corrupt attempts to obscure and conceal the true causes should not be simply ignored, and the possibility that the Government of the day may have assisted in it needs to be investigated. For what it’s worth, I doubt that they did (I suspect Margaret Thatcher cynically hoped to pre-meditate the Taylor Inquiry in order to use the Disaster as ammunition for her ID-cards scheme, but I don’t think she assisted in the SYP’s cover-up), but it’s still possible, and if it did happen, those who were involved, again, should be made to give account.

(On the subject of Hillsborough, I’ve done several essays about the Disaster myself.

http://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/hillsborough-the-myths/

http://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/hillsborough-did-gate-c-even-matter/

First one has a very ‘first-draft’ feel to it, but then I’ve never got round to re-writing it.)

22 08 2011
Kowalski

Why do people react like this when you won’t bend to their point of view? What kind of debate is this?

A quote about the principle of “Breach of Duty” – “In English tort law, there can be no liability in negligence unless the claimant establishes both that they were owed a duty of care by the defendant, and that there has been a breach of that duty. The defendant is in breach of duty towards the claimant if their conduct fell short of the standard expected under the circumstances.”

The Taylor Report states;

116. The overcrowding up to 2.52 pm was due to a number of factors which can be considered broadly under three heads.

(i) The layout at the Leppings Lane end.
(ii) Lack of fixed capacities for the pens,
(iii) Lack of effective monitoring of the terraces.

166. What is clear, however, is that de facto the police at Hillsborough had accepted responsibility for control of the pens at the Leppings Lane end.

Surely according to the legal definition above the Police could be seen to be negligent. Don’t forget a Lord Justice of this realm collected the facts together for this inquiry.

This is my view of the Hillsborough Disaster and it is based on evidence from survivors, the published work of academics, the views of pressure groups and the inquiry of Lord Justice Taylor.

I won’t apologise for expressing my opinion as it was neither derrogatory nor discriminatory. My opinion wasn’t slanderous or libellous either because I quoted a legal document.

22 08 2011
delhistreet

‘Daily Mail letter writing type’ eh? As opposed to what, ‘Opinionated blogging type’? For the record I neither read nor write to the Daily Mail and I come from what would be referred to as a working class area, I don’t like that description though because I don’t believe in ‘class’. If you express views via publicly accessible blogs, you should not be surprised if someone comments with an opposing view to yours, it’s called ‘debate’ and is an essential element of democracy. Personally I don’t take a ‘left-wing’ or ‘right-wing’ view of anything, I prefer to look at the facts before making a decision, you on the other hand seem to see things through ‘red’ spectacles. The passages you highlight do not prove police negligence, they merely highlight areas where Taylor thinks the wrong actions were taken (easy after the event). Just as a matter of interest, how old were you when the Hillsborough tragedy happened? You may well be old enough (as I am) to have experienced the packed terraces of old and been in the middle of crowd trouble in football grounds, if not you really shouldn’t cast aspersions on those who had to police these events. Hindsight from the comfort of a chair is a wonderful thing. Anyway, I’ll leave you to your blogging in our wonderfully free country, have fun.

22 08 2011
Kowalski

I’ll have to stop replying as you’re beginning to sound like a Daily Mail letter writing type.

I don’t know why you’re getting so shirty over this, the piece wasn’t addressed to you and it wasn’t addressed to the people that don’t think Liverepool fans caused Hillsborough. The piece was addressed to the kind of person that blames, or virtually blames, Scousers for causing Hillsborough. Funnily enough I’ve noticed a few people like that on Twitter and some of them just won’t have it any other way.

As for not mentioning the pens, ground design etc. – unless I’m mistaken I included the relevant section of the Taylor Report relating to the causes of overcrowding in the pens (and highlighted this in blue) in the original post. You may want to re-read that bit. I even included a link to the Taylor Report so that people could read this for themselves.

While we’re on the subject of the pens. They were there before the match and they were inanimate objects, they couldn’t do any harm on their own. Everybody knew they were in the Leppings Land End. Whether this was the Liverpool fans going to the match, the people organising the match or the people controlling the crowd. There should have been a plan, the Police should have controlled the situation. They didn’t.

Unless I’ve read the Taylor Report in the wrong way it seems to state there was Police negligence;

116. The overcrowding up to 2.52 pm was due to a number of factors which can be considered broadly under three heads.

(i) The layout at the Leppings Lane end.
(ii) Lack of fixed capacities for the pens,
(iii) Lack of effective monitoring of the terraces.

166. What is clear, however, is that de facto the police at Hillsborough had accepted responsibility for control of the pens at the Leppings Lane end.

184. By 2.52 pm when gate C was opened, pens 3 and 4 were over-full even by this test. Many were uncomfortable. To allow any more into those pens was likely to cause injuries; to allow in a large stream was courting disaster.

Forgive me if I’ve been dense but I’ve read this and re-read this and it still sounds like police negligence.

Yes I’m grateful I don’t live in Colombia with police death squads, or any other dictatorship etc etc. The fact we live in a democracy (with the assumption of checks and balance to ensure justice and fairness) means we shouldn’t just accept police negligence, mistakes or brutality.

Should we tolerate the Guidford Four, the Birmingham Six, the malicious use of the “sus laws” against certain groups, the malicious use of Section 27 to prevent law-abiding football fans from travelling to matches, the tactical use of police in the Miners’ strike, the anti-catholic behaviour of the RUC in the past etc etc etc etc. Should we tolerate all this just because this is wonderful Britain?

I’ll leave you with a question, why didn’t the disaster happen the year before? The same two clubs played in a semi final at the same ground and the fans were at the same ends.

But then what’s the point, it’s all history.

22 08 2011
delhistreet

There seems little point in debating with you any more as your blinkered belief in your ’cause’ seems to be preventing you from actually reading what is written. In your original piece you state that ‘some people think that Liverpool fans are partly, if not wholly to blame for killing their own fans. Other people don’t like the sound of ‘Whinging Scousers” from “self-pity city” spouting off. I’ve challenged one or two of them on Twitter about this attitude.’, if you hadn’t mentioned this I wouldn’t have said anything about Liverpool people. I was pointing out that, as a football fan, I had found that most people do not have the attitude you were challenging. Leaving that aside for a moment you state that ‘I used to think that the truth was self-evident about Hillsborough; it was a disaster caused by a mixture of Police negligence and Thatcher’s policies.’. You make no mention of the pens, the design of the ground, the prevalence of crowd trouble in football stadiums at that time. If you could try to put aside your anti-Thatcher, anti-police, prejudices for a few minutes and look at the FACTS, then perhaps you might have come to a different conclusion. The Taylor report does not prove that the police caused the disaster, it points out some operational failures on their part and also mentions the pens (something you seem to have totally missed). As to your point about people being brought before the courts for negligence, this owes much to the current ‘ambulance chasing lawyer’ and ‘compensation’ culture which now pervades our society. This is one of the reasons that health care costs so much and the police spend most of their time filling in forms rather than fighting crime. Life’s too short to keep harking on about percieved injustices of the past, Hillsborough happened over two decades ago and should be consigned to the history books. On a personal note you should put aside your hatred of the police. We are very fortunate to live in a free country which has an unarmed police force, something most of the world can only dream about. They are the thing which stands between us and lawless anarchy, something we have had a taste of recently. They should be held accountable to the democratically elected government and if they commit CRIMINAL acts they should be held accountable by the courts, this is already the case.

21 08 2011
Kowalski

” I was merely trying to point out that Liverpool people are no better, or worse than anybody else. Quite how what I said could be construed as ‘Well never mind, they’re only Scousers, eh!”, I can’t imagine” – If you read what I wrote I actually said that statements like “Well never mind, they’re only scouser, eh!!!” can be used by others. This isn’t quite the same as what you said I said you said.

While we’re at it, what relation do the following two statements have with Hillsborough? 1. “Liverpool fans are certainly not all ‘scallies’ but on the other hand they are not all the ‘salt of the earth’ either. The truth, as with all large groups of people, lies somewhere in between these two extremes” 2. “Liverpool people are no better, or worse than anybody else”. They have nothing to do with Hillsborough.

“Why this insistence that someone should stand trial for a decision they made while carrying out their duties?’ – Because due to the dereliction of duty in Hillsborough 96 people died. The police should have been in control of the situation, they weren’t, therefore they should be held accountable in a democracy. In situations where there is public trust in the police they should not be making mistakes that lead to people dying, it’s simple.

If a stressed out business exec falls asleep at the wheel, crashes his car and kills someone, the exec would be tried regardless of the extenuating stress. Why should the police be exempt from this priniciple? They are trained at the tax payers expense to deal with stressful situations, or at least to remain calm. They should actually lead by example and do the decent thing in matters like this.

Hillsborough was caused by Police negligence – a point proven by the Taylor Report – and there has been no justice. This is a scandal no matter how it’s painted but because it involves football fans it’s not perceived as such. The police didn’t murder Liverpool fans but their negligence led to 96 deaths.

It’s funny that when the powerful mess things up people are more willing to justify what’s happened – Miners are battered by police – the police are doing a great job. Police are battered by miners – Miners’ brutality shocks nation.

Hillsborough would not have happened with proper police control, the police need to be held accountable.

20 08 2011
delhistreet

I have to confess to being a bit shocked by your response on this, I can only assume that you didn’t actually read what I said. I actually said that most people didn’t blame Liverpool fans for the disaster. I also didn’t make any reference to the ‘social status’ of people from Liverpool. Your original piece mentioned that some people blamed Liverpool fans because of their behaviour at other games, I was merely trying to point out that Liverpool people are no better, or worse than anybody else. Quite how what I said could be construed as ‘Well never mind, they’re only Scousers, eh!”, I can’t imagine. So let’s get it quite straight, lest there still be confusion, the Liverpool fans were not to blame for the deaths. Whether or not the police were at fault, you have to say that they were working under extreme pressure and decisions had to be made there and then. Bear in mind that those were very different times and for someone in a control room to think that trouble had broken out in the crowd is
understandable. The police are only human, just like the rest of us and as such they make mistakes. There is a world of difference between making decisions in the heat of the moment and deliberately killing someone. Why this insistence that someone should stand trial for a decision they made while carrying out their duties? In any case, if the pens hadn’t been there (and they were only introduced because of previous crowd trouble at Hillsborough), the tragedy wouldn’t have happened regardless of any decisions the police did or did not make. And finally, I have to say that your last statement beggars belief. Bloody Sunday was an event where innocent protesters were shot by soldiers, Thalidomide was a tragedy caused by a drug being approved for use before the side effects were fully understood (something that thankfully is much less likely today). To equate Hillsborough to these events is fanciful in the extreme.

20 08 2011
Kowalski

Thanks for your attention.

The point of writing this post was to answer a fool on Twitter. He would not listen to reason, he would not listen to fact, the only thing he was willing to do was endlessly repeat the idea that Liverpool fans were somehow to blame for Hillsborough. We need to challenge people doing this so it prevents a false version of history becoming the accepted logic.

The point of the trawling through the Taylor Report is to prove that Liverpool fans were NOT to blame for Hillsborough. The point of trawling through Taylor Report is to find the sections where it proves the Police were negligent. The Taylor report proves there is some degree of Police negligence and this is the reason for the calls for justice. The Taylor Report proves that the Police should have been in control of the situation but they lost control of the situation. Imagine if 96 policemen had died as the result of industrial action or the “Poll Tax Riot”, I’d say that a measure of justice for the families of the police officers would have been swiftly delivered.

It doesn’t matter whether Liverpool fans are the “Salt of the earth”, “Scallies” or “Lord Westminster’s nephews and nieces” or somewhere inbetween. 96 people died as the result of going to a football match. By talking about the social status of Liverpool fans, as if it has some relevance to the disaster, you will give some people a justification for thinking “Well never mind, they’re only Scousers, eh!”. This is a tactic beloved by muckracking journalists trying to prove that people deserved to die because they were poor, or black, or northern, or Irish etc etc. To talk about people like this dehumanises the tragedy.

Think of a family that lost someone, how would they feel? Would they feel like they had justice? No-one has stood trial in public court (only attempts at private prosecutions) for Hillsborough even though the case for Police negligence is proven by the Taylor Report. Does it really matter that you see nothing wrong with football, or that you think lesson have been learned? There hasn’t been any real justice for the families, why should things be put to rest?

The Hillsborough tragedy is up there with Bloody Sunday and Thalidomide as one of the worst scandals in twentieth century Britain.

20 08 2011
delhistreet

This is all very interesting but anyone can trawl through a report and pick out passages to support their argument and I’m puzzled by this ‘deserve justice’ thing. It may well be that some fans, more particularly those who only read what is commonly referred to as ‘the popular press’, blame Liverpool fans for the disaster. As a fan myself, however, I have not generally found this to be the case. Liverpool fans are certainly not all ‘scallies’ but on the other hand they are not all the ‘salt of the earth’ either. The truth, as with all large groups of people, lies somewhere in between these two extremes. In any case, this tragedy has been dissected again and again over the years and I fail to see how the release of any documents is going to move the debate on. A sequence of events led to the tragic deaths of 96 people but none of them was intentionally murdered. Since the event many changes have taken place, as a result of the inquiry into the disaster, which have greatly reduced the likelihood of anything like this happening again. There are some, like me, who think these changes went too far and have altered the football ‘experience’ adversely (for Liverpool fans too who have lost their beloved ‘kop’ – I know it still exists but in name only). The point is, no one person, or group of people, was to blame for the disaster. People died at a football match yes but people die every day performing the most mundane tasks, there is no ‘justice’ to be had. What is it that you want? Money? Someone saying ‘it was my fault’? The time to move on is long overdue. Lessons have been learned, changes have been made, that really is the only ‘justice’ there can be.

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