It’s been 6,447 days since the Hillsborough Disaster occurred on what many believe was the darkest day in the history of football. On that fateful day in April 1989, 96 innocent football fans tragically died when many of them were crushed to death at a FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough ground in Sheffield, England.
I bring this topic up because many TV viewers in America are new to soccer and aren’t aware of the history of this tragedy. Comments were made on Fox Soccer Channel earlier this week that infuriated soccer fans in the U.S. and around the world, so it’s important than soccer fans know the truth about what happened and respect those who died a horrific death that day.
To learn more about the facts regarding what happened on that day, view the following:
- the Wikipedia entry,
- a personal account from one of the survivors,
- a chronological outline of what happened,
- a 20-minute video of the disaster (please be forewarned that the video features images of a graphic nature that should not be viewed by children),
- moving images and audio from the Hillsborough Disaster,
- and an article about the tragedy from the Liverpool web site.
Liverpool fans of all ages died. The youngest was Jon-Paul Gilhooley, aged 10. The eldest was Gerard Baron, 67.
What needs to be remembered is that Liverpool fans were not to blame for this tragedy. According to Wikipedia, “Sheffield Wednesday were criticised for the low number of turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end and the poor quality of the crush barriers on the terraces there. The Taylor Report however stated that official cause of the disaster was the failure of police control.”
“The disaster was caused by the fact that the majority of fans entering the terraces headed for the central pens 3 and 4. Normally a police officer or steward would direct fans away from full pens, but on the day this did not happen. The official capacity of these pens was around 2000, however the Health and Safety Executive later found that this should have been reduced to around 1600 as the crush barriers did not conform to the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds 1986. It is estimated that the number of people in these pens shortly after kick off at 3.00pm was over 3000. This overcrowding caused the fatal crush.”
The Hillsborough Disaster could have happened to any club, but unfortunately it was Liverpool.
The Heysel Disaster, meanwhile, can be blamed at Liverpool fans who charged Juventus supporters. Unfortunately the Heysel Stadium in Belgium was a decrepid old stadium, and when the Reds fans charged the Italians, a crumbling wall dividing the fans came toppling down killing 39 fans, mostly Juventus fans who were there to watch the 1985 European Cup Final against Liverpool.
There were other factors that can be attributed to the Heysel tragedy, but no official inquiry was ever made.
When the Hillsborough Disaster happened on April 15, 1989, I remember listening to the BBC World Service on my shortwave radio with my cousin in Florida. There were reports from the BBC that the match had been stopped due to crowd trouble. Listening to the live BBC Sport coverage, I remember that it was difficult to really fathom the scale of what was happening. It was complete chaos.
It wasn’t until the morning after that I realized how horrific the incident had been when I was saw the images of the disaster on the front page of my local paper. Although I didn’t have any friends or family members who died in the tragedy, I do have relatives who live in Liverpool.
When I was in Liverpool two weeks ago, I spoke to my Great Aunt about the tragic day. We discussed how even today, 17 years after the event, The Sun newspaper is despised and hardly sells any copies at all in Liverpool due to the lies it told.
When I was there, I visited the Hillsborough tribute which is next to the Shankly Gates at Anfield. You can view images of the stadium and the tribute here.