On Monday’s episode of the World Soccer Daily show, radio co-host Steven Cohen failed to apologize to Liverpool supporters regarding the inaccurate statements he made about their role in the Hillsborough Disaster that occurred on April 15, 1989.
The inaccurate statements made by Cohen on his April 13, 2009 episode of World Soccer Daily were that:
- Ticketless Liverpool supporters were the root cause of the Hillsborough Disaster,
- 6-8,000 ticketless Liverpool supporters showed up outside Hillsborough, and
- Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium was used week-in week-out without incident.
Instead of apologizing, he softened his April 13 stance on his belief that there were 6-8,000 ticketless Liverpool supporters outside the ground. During the April 20, 2009 episode, he first said “There were several thousand who showed up without tickets.” But a few minutes later, when co-host Kenny Hassan gave Cohen an opportunity to retract the 6-8,000 number, Cohen replied “If it’s not the right number, it’s not the point. If I’m wrong on the number, then I’ll retract it and apologize. If it’s 25, 2500 or 25,000, my point is made for me. There were people there who shouldn’t have been there because they didn’t have tickets and they were hell bent on getting in. I’m sorry, those are the facts.”
Cohen is barking up the wrong tree when he claims ticketless fans contributed to the disaster. They did not. According to The Hillsborough Football Disaster paper entitled Context and Consequences, page 17, “[Lord Justice] Taylor surmised there was no substance to the allegation that ticketless fans caused the Disaster.”
And while there may have been some ticketless supporters outside the ground — as there are at any major football game or sporting event — “I have already found that there was not an abnormally large number of fans without tickets on this occasion,” said Lord Taylor in his interim report. “With one or two exceptions, the police witnesses themselves did not subscribe to the ‘conspiracy’ theory (of a large number of late-arriving ticketless supporters).”
Cohen has seemingly changed his tune about Liverpool — from the extreme opinion on April 13 that the ticketless fans were the root cause of the Hillsborough Disaster to a twisted logic on April 20 that insists on Liverpool fans admitting that they were part responsible for the disaster because some ticketless fans were hell bent on getting inside the stadium.
According to a report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), “it was unlikely that the terrace exceeded 10,124 and that total admissions were approximately equal to the designated capacity of 10,100 people.”
So even if there were as few as 24 ticketless supporters who were hell bent on getting into the Leppings Lane end, it would have been impossible for those fans — who were vastly outnumbered — to have an impact on the more than 3,000 fans who were inside the central pen.
“The point is if the people [without tickets] hadn’t been outside, this never [would have] happened,” said Cohen. “This is a stadium that had no problems prior to this particular day. That’s a fact.”
Except that it isn’t a fact. It’s inaccurate. As I reported in Monday’s EPL Talk article, there had been several incidents at Hillsborough prior to April 15, 1989 — most notably a game in 1981 when 38 Spurs supporters suffered crush-related injuries in the same Leppings Lane stand.
It’s time for Steven Cohen to share the facts with us that he claims he has. It’s also time for Cohen to publicly retract his statement that there were 6-8,000 ticketless Liverpool supporters. And most importantly of all, he needs to retract his statement that Liverpool fans were responsible for the Hillsborough Disaster.
There’s no evidence to show that 24 supporters sneaking over the wall at Hillsborough were a factor in the death of the 96 Liverpool fans who died from crush-related injuries. But there are plenty of pieces of evidence that chronicle the list of mistakes that South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield Wednesday and the Football Association committed.
For Steven Cohen to not apologize on air and to carry on about the need for Liverpool to share the responsibility of what happened at Hillsborough is sickening. It’s time for Cohen to admit he was wrong, apologize to Liverpool fans and to read the Taylor Interim Report to better educate himself and his World Soccer Daily listeners.
If he doesn’t apologize to his radio listeners, I’m concerned that he may spread his misinformation about what caused the Hillsborough Disaster to the weekly Fox Football Fone-In TV show that he co-hosts on Fox Soccer Channel. Having a loose cannon like Cohen on live TV is a risk that Fox has to determine whether it’s worth taking.
EPL Talk readers interested in learning more about Hillsborough as well as the chance to see TV footage and interviews should watch the excellent BBC Football Focus video from April 11, 2009 which was a special tribute to the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster.
I should note that Kartik Krishnaiyer, from our sister site Major League Soccer Talk, had an interview previously arranged with Cohen for this Thursday, so feel free to post your questions for Cohen there. The interview is a golden opportunity for Cohen to respond to direct questions from you about his opinions regarding what really happened at Hillsborough.
You can listen to the segment of the April 20 episode where Cohen discusses the EPL Talk article below.
UPDATE: On May 18, 2009, Steven Cohen apologized on World Soccer Daily for his unfortunate and inaccurate statements he made about the Hillsborough Disaster.
UPDATE 2: The comments regarding the Steven Cohen controversy have been closed. It’s time to return the discussion to football.