Hillsborough truth in sight at last

Liverpool FC: Hillsborough Truth in Sight

Justice for the 96
Justice For The 96

The end to an arduous 22-year campaign for truth surrounding the Hillsborough disaster could at last be in sight as the UK government has confirmed it will release all contemporary documents relating to the day in question.

The Sun
The Sun

After a 139,000-strong online petition and a moving parliamentary debate led Home Secretary Theresa May to announce up to 300,000 files will be released.

The relatives of the 96 Liverpool fans who died at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final have maintained a relentless campaign for government minutes to be publicised, to prove once and for all that Reds fans were innocent and that South Yorkshire police alone were to blame for the tragedy and lied to cover the fact up.

While the famous Taylor Report, which paved the way for the all-seater stadia of the Premier League we have today, exonerated the supporters and confirmed the police were responsible for the crowd control which turned fatal, the South Yorkshire force's role in spreading misinformation has never been confirmed officially.

What seems clear is that the policeman in charge of opening the gates that April day, David Duckenfield, tried to cover his back by putting out stories to the FA, government and press of drunken and rowdy Liverpool fans barging their way into the Leppings Lane end and crushing their colleagues to death.

This dishonest spin was taken up and amplified by a Rupert Murdoch tabloid and a Conservative government already hostile to football and its fan culture - at the time the impish Sports Minister Colin Moynihan was running an ill-conceived campaign to make English supporters carry I.D. cards to gain entry to stadia.

Margaret Thatcher's bullish press officer Bernard Ingham told the cabinet "tanked-up" fans were to blame, while oafish local Tory MP Irvine Patnick, despite not having been at the match, gleefully supplied the ammo for the Sun's notorious headline 'The Truth', which claimed Reds fans had stolen from, sexually assaulted and urinated upon their fellow supporters as they lay dying. Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie remains unapologetic for the nadir of British journalism, telling an after-dinner crowd in 2006: "I wasn't sorry then and I'm not sorry now because we told the truth."

Clearing the final hurdle in the campaign for truth has probably arrived on the back of this summer's phone-hacking scandal, when a nexus of collusion between the Murdoch press, the police and politicians was laid bare for the public to punish.

Liverpool FC
Liverpool FC

Those affected by the disaster, from the victims' relatives to the millions who had passed through English turnstiles to stand in caged pens and who empathised fully with the tragic events as they unfolded, may soon be able to relax in the knowledge the whole truth of the darkest day in English soccer has been established.


Football history has recorded Hillsborough not only as a human tragedy but as the death knell for the fortress-like stadia of cages and barbed wire and gritty supporter culture which was the norm throughout the 1970s and '80s. Hooliganism, which seemed out of control at times in the 1980s, lost its sheen after Hillsborough, as the seriousness of fans losing their lives was brought home to one and all in England.
In the aftermath of the disaster, the removal of perimeter fencing for the Liverpool v Everton FA Cup Final heralded the spectator-friendly stadia we know today, and along with England's heroics at Italia '90, beckoned new private investment in the game which would become the behemoth of today's FA Premier League.

Tragically, it took a human disaster for morons to realise violence was stupid, and for the authorities to realise that crowds and revenues would grow if they treated their paying customers with respect.

The 96 dead, whose names were read out in parliament today, ranged in age from 10 to 67 and included the cousin of current Liverpool FC captain Steven Gerrard.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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