Justice, redemption and vindication. These are the prominent themes we must acknowledge in the wake of the recent Hillsborough Independent Panel report.
On 15th April 1989, the worst tragedy ever to befall British football and the biggest stain on this country’s sporting landscape took place. That fateful day saw 96 Liverpool fans die during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest – a game which should never have been held at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium, a ground so unfit to handle such an important occasion.
And what followed will forever be remembered by anyone who witnessed it. Hundreds were injured, millions traumatized and a city, a country, a watching world left in mourning.
…many were pressed to death against the gates…
96 supporters were crushed to death as Liverpool fans, allocated tickets to the Leppings Lane stand, found themselves in an overcrowded pen and began to fall atop one another. The pressure of such a large crowd proved too much for those at the forefront and many were pressed to death against the gates.
Every football fan should return home safely after watching a game – that sentiment was echoed on Twitter recently by FIFA President Sepp Blatter. And yet, tragically, many do not; many do not make it to the next match.
…a scene of chaos caused by incompetent policing…
But were this a completely accidental freak incident never to have been seen before or repeated thereafter, that would be one thing. Were it even a scene of chaos caused by incompetent policing – if the authorities took total responsibility and apologized, working with victims in the aftermath – that would still be understandable.
Yet when the disaster was caused by impotent police organisation, showing utter contempt for football fans as some sort of separate specie, and then covered up by a government, press and police exposé, it becomes vehemently incomprehensible.
The findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel showed that 164 police statements were amended, and 450,000 documents altered. The purpose: to show Liverpool fans as some kind of ‘enemy within’. To show Liverpool fans as the cause of their own demise. To show Liverpool fans as violent, callous and sickening human beings.
But no, it was the South Yorkshire Police that acted in callous, sickening fashion. Their attempt to portray football supporters as the reason for the 96 deaths and divert and absolve any blame from a lack of police control has finally been uncovered.
…they were simply watching their heroes…
Finally, the world will see them for what they are.
Justice: for the 96 innocent victims whose names and legacies were tainted when they were simply watching their heroes.
…their blessed souls can now rest in peace…
Redemption: for those accused who fought on against a higher power – against all odds.
Vindication: for the brave and honourable mothers, fathers, children, siblings, friends and colleagues who battled for 23 years to clear the names of those they loved.
The truth is out, now; and though no one can bring back those who fell on that horrible day, their blessed souls can now rest in peace, and the rest of us can live on in hope and truthful remembrance.