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Hillsborough – It Could Have Been Newcastle’s Tragedy

8 years ago

Listening to the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel was a humbling experience today, what is clear is that this could have happened to any club who had a large travelling support back in that era.

If you travelled to away matches back in the seventies or eighties and regularly stood on the terraces,  you will no doubt have been in a situation sometime where you felt uncomfortably squashed. Imagine then if that feeling just got worse and worse and you were unable to move away from the situation.

The worst crush I probably experienced was a fifth round FA Cup replay at White Hart Lane back in 1987, anybody who was there will tell you how bad it was and exactly how many were packed onto those terraces I’d hate to think.

Imagine the families of those Liverpool fans who waved them off that morning, imagining the very worst that could happen that day would be disappointed fans returning after a semi-final defeat by Forest.

Instead, just like I did as I stood on the terraces at Highbury that day, they would have gradually found out there had been problems at Hillsborough and eventually that there had even been deaths. In the pre-mobile phone era, I remember there was somebody at Arsenal that day with a transistor radio and he was relaying information, it was sometime during the second half of our match that it started to be reported that some people could even have died.

To then discover 96 people had died while we were watching a match less than 200 miles away, similar people from very similar backgrounds, only supporting another team.

Imagine how much worse it has been for the families and friends of those who died as for over twenty years certain people continued to try and put the blame on the actual victims, it defies belief. Sadly some fans of other clubs have been happy to go along with this blame game, in some kind of feeble point scoring over fans of a rival club. People just like them but from another city.

Those responsible for the cover up should be held to account and made to answer for their actions, some of the main findings of the independent enquiry are outlined below. The friends and families must be so pleased that at last progress has been made in getting the truth out there, while at the same time tinged with deep sadness at how much of this was preventable and their disbelief at the actions of those in positions of authority who were only interested in deflecting the blame elsewhere instead of helping people who had lost loved ones to deal with and make sense of what had happened to those they had lost.

Main Findings

– 164 police statements were taken from witnesses on the day of the disaster and 116 were found to have been amended to remove all comments that were in any way critical of South Yorkshire Police.

– The importance placed on blood alcohol levels was inappropriate and it fuelled, “Persistent and unsustainable assertions about drunken fan behaviour which was not supported by evidence of moderate patterns of drinking unremarkable for a leisure event”. Blood tests were taken from who had died to see if they had been drinking, then for those that hadn’t they ran Police record checks, “…to impugn the reputations of the deceased”.

– Allegations against Liverpool fans were filed by Sheffield based White’s News Agency, these resulted from meeting with a number of Police officers, MP Irvine Patnick and the South Yorkshire Police Federation Secretary, Paul Middup.

– The original pathologists’ evidence was based on a false presumption which led to a 3.15pm cut-off on evidence to the enquiry. This led to a mistaken belief that effective emergency service intervention couldn’t have saved lives.

– In a number of cases death was not immediate and the outcome for those people depended on events after 3.15pm – 41 of those who died had the potential to survive that 3.15pm cut-off but it’s impossible to say how many of those would have survived.

– The disgusting gossip and rumour on the day and the presumption of guilt on the part of many who died, was then exasperated by the smear campaign ran by The Sun.

They happily swallowed lies, and printed them, such as ‘…shocked bobbies revealed how they were kicked and punched as they gave victims the kiss of life’.

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