The Hillsborough Disaster was an incident that occurred on April 15th, 1989, at the Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield. 96 people died and 766 people were injured.
Previous Problems with Football Stadiums
The 1970s and 1980s had been terrible for the reputation of English football fans: safety was low, and hooligans fighting had seen English teams banned from Europe.
There were warning signs that an incident such as this could occur at Hillsborough. Only one year earlier the same two teams had met in another semi-final, and crushing in the same stand was reported. The stadium did not have a safety licence after problems of crushing had happened in 1981.
The disaster happened during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The game was being played at Hillsborough, the home of Sheffield Wednesday, and was shown on live TV.
The deaths and injuries happened due to a crush in the stand holding the Liverpool fans. Although the stand was already full, police opened a gate to allow more fans in in order to stop over-crowding outside the stadium.
Feeling crushed, many fans tried to get out of the area. However, a crush barrier collapsed and fans began to fall on top of each other. As fans tried to escape onto the pitch, police officers tried to stop them.
Although the game was stopped after 6 minutes, the disaster continued to unfold.
Advertising hoardings were torn down to act as stretchers for the victims. 44 ambulances arrived at the ground, but only one was allowed into the stadium.
The fallout from the disaster has been significant. A report (The Taylor Report) found fault in the stadium and, more significantly, the police. After the disaster it was decided that major sports stadia in the UK should be all-seater (no standing areas).
Major faults in the police were revealed, not only at ground level but also in lies told by senior police officials as to how the disaster happened. Initially the police said the blame was with drunk fans rushing into the stadium.
The Sun newspaper – Britain’s biggest selling paper – also reported that fans were to blame. Under a headline ‘The Truth’ it talked of drunken fans stealing from the dead and urinating on the police. The paper’s editor at the time, Kelvin McKenzie, refused to apologise. The Sun is largely hated in the city of Liverpool.
In 2012 a second report absolved fans from blame. It also stated that 41 of the 96 deaths could have been avoided with quicker medical attention, and found that 164 eye-witness accounts of the disaster had been removed, and 116 accounts unfavourable to the police had been changed.
Along with other disasters – such as the fire at Kings Cross Station in London – the UK began to make its public venues safer. Passing health and safety checks is one is the most important things a public venue has to do.