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Justice for the 96 - The Hillborough Verdict!

It's one of the biggest injustices in the history of Britain and certainly the biggest injustice in UK sporting history! The 1989 FA Cup semi-final match at Hillsborough versus Liverpool and Nottingham Forrest football clubs should have been a great contest between two of the countries top sides, instead, it turned out to be a complete and utter tragedy for all the wrong reasons.

The Justice for the 96 Campaign at Anfield

The unforgettable disaster was the result of atrocious planning, preparation and execution on behalf of the Football Association, Sheffield Wednesday FC, the Emergency Ambulance Services and of course South Yorkshire Police. The selected venue had for some time been earmarked as a potential disaster waiting to happen, with previous instances at the venue raising concerns for the safety of supporters.
Despite the warning signs, the Hillsborough stadium was selected by the Football Association to host the 1989 FA Cup semi-final fixture, as it had done in five other semi-finals in the 1980's.
During a previous encounter between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 1981 FA Cup semi-final, a crush at the same Leppings Lane end of the ground resulted in 38 supporters being injured, including broken legs, arms and ribs. The first Hillsborough Memorial at Anfield During a post-match briefing to discuss the 1981 incident, the Sheffield Wednesday chairman Bert McGee was quoted as saying, "Bollocks - no one would have been killed". This is contrary to remarks made by the police at the time who believed that there was a real chance of a fatality occuring.
Sheffield Wednesday made several changes to the layout of the Leppings Lane end, before they were chosen to host their next FA Cup semi-final fixture in 1987. This was despite the grounds safety certificate not being updated and the capacity of the ground not being altered.
Low and behold, reports of serious overcrowding was observed again during the 1987 FA Cup quarter-final, the 1987 FA Cup semi-final and the 1988 FA Cup semi-final.
The 1987 FA Cup semi-final fixture between Coventry City and Leeds United bared striking similarities to the 1989 tragedy, with fans having to be pulled to safety from the upper stands. One of the Leeds United fans recalled the disorganisation at the turnstiles, as well as the lack of stewards and police officers in the ground to offer direction to the supporters. This resulted in the crowd in one of the enclosures becoming so compressed that supporters were unable to raise and clap their hands.
The 1988 FA Cup semi-final fixture between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest also left fans reporting being crushed at the Leppings Lane end. After the game, one Liverpool supporter complained to both the Football Association and the Minister for Sport about the incident. He wrote, "The whole area was packed solid to the point where it was impossible to move and where I, and others around me, felt considerable concern for personal safety".
This prompted Liverpool Football Club to lodge an official complaint to the FA, following their decision to select Hillsborough for the 1989 FA Cup semi-final fixture.

The Warning Signs Were There!

This is quite a remarkable turn of events that led to the tragedy that occurred on that fateful afternoon in 1989. The troubles that occurred in the 1981 semi-final alone should have sent alarm bells ringing for the people responsible for choosing the venue, as well as the incumbent owners of the stadium. Had the correct health and safety procedures been implemented, we would have never had a repeat of the 1981 incident, as was unfortunately the case twice in 1987, in 1988 and most tragically in 1989.

The Hillsborough Verdict Questions Answered by the Jury

No. Question Verdict
1 Do you agree with the following statement which is intended to summarise the basic facts of the disaster: "On the 15th of April, 1989, 96 people died in the disaster at Hillsborough stadium as a result of crushing in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace, following the admission of a large number of supporters to the stadium through exit gates." YES
2 Was there any error or omission in the police planning and preparation for the semi-final match on the 15th of April, 1989 which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match? YES
3 Was there any error or omission in policing on the day of the match which caused or contributed to a dangerous situation developing at the Leppings Lane turnstiles? YES
4 Was there any error or omission by commanding officers which caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace? YES
5 When the order was given to open the exit gates at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium, was there any error or omission by the commanding officers in the control box which caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace? YES
6 Are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed? YES
7 Was there any behaviour on the part of football supporters which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles? NO
7.1 If your answer to the question above is "no", then was there any behaviour on the part of football supporters which may have caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles? NO
8 Were there any features of the design, construction and layout of the stadium which you consider were dangerous or defective and which caused or contributed to the disaster? YES
9 Was there any error or omission in the safety certification and oversight of Hillsborough stadium that caused or contributed to the disaster? YES
10 Was there any error or omission by Sheffield Wednesday FC (and its staff) in the management of the stadium and/or preparation for the semi-final match on the 15th of April, 1989 which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match? YES
11 Was there any error or omission by Sheffield Wednesday FC (and its staff) on the 15th of April, 1989 which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match? YES
12 Should Eastwood & Partners [the club's consultant engineers] have done more to detect and advise on any unsafe or unsatisfactory features of Hillsborough stadium which caused or contributed to the disaster? YES
13 After the crush in the west terrace had begun to develop, was there any error or omission by the police which caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster? YES
14 After the crush in the west terrace had begun to develop, was there any error or omission by Symas which caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster? YES

The aftermath of the event marked another quite incredible turn of events, as the powers that be - that were at fault for the incident occurring, and certain dare I call them, 'Media' outlets, went looking for a scapegoat for the tragedy.

The Filthy Cover-Up

The South Yorkshire Police that were responsible for the incident ocurring in the first place by opening the Leppings Lane entrance, attempted to exonerate themselves from any blame, almost describing themselves as Knights in Shining Armor, battling the tyranny of those meddling peasents. All lies of course, as nothing could be further from the truth.
Had it not been for the brave actions of the Liverpool supporters on the day, with their quick decisive human instinct to help the wounded, the death toll would have almost certainly been higher than it was. Equally, had the South Yorkshire Police acted as a united force and attempted to help the fans, as very few of them did, there would not have been so many families with lost loved ones on the day.
Instead, what happened was an absolute travesty, in the absence of any real leadership the majority of the police that were present on the pitch lined themselves up as if to create a cordon, holding hands with eachother. The Ambulance Services were as much disorganised as the South Yorkshire Police, they too lacked leadership as they struggled to get the much needed help to the fans that needed it.

The mass boycott of 'The S*n' is well supported all over the LCR!

The Don't Buy The S*n Campaign!

The Don't Buy The Sun Campaign Logo Only days following the disaster, overwhelmed with the grief of losing their loved ones, the families of the victims woke up to an outrageous set of scandalous lies aimed at pointing the blame solely at the Liverpool supporters and scousers in general.
Just four days after the tragedy the unforgivably vile headline in 'The S*n' newspaper on the 19th of April wrote, "The Truth", followed by pure and utter abhorrent filth!
The editor of 'The S*n' newspaper Kelvin MacKenzie was reportedly only to eager to run the story with the title "You Scum", before deciding on the headline, "The Truth"
Regardless of which headline he went with, words can not describe the anger felt by the grieving families and the city region as a whole over the content of the so called newspaper on that day.

United in despair, the City of Liverpool and the wider region began a boycott of the vile newspaper that has continued to this day, and will continue on for the forseeable future! Copies of the disgraced national newspaper were burnt in the streets of Liverpool, newspaper outlets refused to sell it.
Sales of the newspaper plummeted, not just in Liverpool, but in the whole of the North West. Sick to the back teeth of the constant culture of disrespect for the poorer northern regions by the south centric press, this edition of 'The S*n' proved to be the last straw for many people.
The only way most people felt they could fight back against the heinous lies directed at Liverpool supporters on that fateful day and scousers as a whole, was to join in with the boycott.

Not out of place with many of the misconceived prejudices of the time, other newspapers also spouted out disgusting lies.
The Times newspaper's Sunday version, 'The Sunday Times' printed this on the 23rd of April:

For the second time in half a decade a large body of Liverpool supporters has killed people ... the shrine in the Anfield goalmouth, the cursing of the police, all the theatricals, come sweetly to a city which is already the world capital of self-pity. There are soapy politicians to make a pet of Liverpool, and Liverpool itself is always standing by to make a pet of itself. 'Why us? Why are we treated like animals?' To which the plain answer is that a good and sufficient minority of you behave like animals.

This at a time when the grieving families were still burying their loved ones.

The 96 Men, Women & Children Will Never Be Forgotten!

The Fan's Campaign for Justice!

Support for the families fight for justice transcends any football allegiances in the Liverpool City Region. The abhorrent lies that began after the event and that had been continuously perpetrated ever since by the likes of the South Yorkshire Police and certain media outlets only fueled the fight for justice.

The 96 Men, Women & Children that tragically lost their lives will never be forgotten!

Thrown together by the turmoil of that day, the hurt of losing their loved ones and the anger at the aftermath, the families of the victims began to fight back. Together with the full support of the city and the wider region, they had a voice that could not and would be silenced.
Trusting in their belief that justice will prevail, they eagerly awaited the result of 'The Taylor Report'. The report that was overseen by Lord Justice Taylor concluded that the main reason for the disaster was the failure of police control.
It made several recommendations, the main one being that all major stadiums were to convert to an all-seater model. This resulted in 'The Football League' and 'The Scottish Football League' introducing regulations for clubs in the highest divisions to fit their grounds with all-seater stands and to remove crush barriers. One thing that the report didn't include however, was a vindication of the supporters on the day.
The fight for justice continued on, in 1997 it looked as though there was to be another full inquiry into the disaster, until Lord Justice Stuart-Smith erroneous concluded that there was insufficient evidence for a new inquiry. Yet another setback for the families, in what felt like another cover-up.
After years of campaigning by the 'Hillsborough Family Support Group' to release all relevant documents, 'The Hillsborough Independent Panel' was created in 2009 to oversee the full public disclosure of thousands of documents about the disaster and its aftermath.
In 2012, 'The Hillsborough Independent Panel' concluded that no Liverpool fans were responsible in any way for the disaster, and that the main cause of the tragedy was a lack of police control, stating that crowd safety was compromised at every level as had also been reported on several occasions prior to the disaster.
The Hillsborough inquiry which concluded in 2016, returned a verdict that the victims were unlawfully killed as a result of many reasons including poor police management, stadium design and maintenance and inadequate response by emergency services.

The Justice Collective supporting the fight for justice

The Justice Collective supporting the fight for justice The fight for justice has been shared by many people from all walks of life. One of the projects aimed at supporting the families fight was the 2012 single by 'The Justice Collective' with a new version of the song, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother". Spearheaded by Peter Hooton of the Liverpool band 'The Farm', the single included a collection of musicians and celebrities.

The people responsible for the single included John Bishop, Richard Blake, Alec Brits, Andy Brown, David Catlin-Birch, Guy Chambers, Melanie C, Hollie Cook, Clay Crosse, Kenny Dalglish, Andrew 'Davo' Davitt, Eliza Doolittle, Tony Draper, Bobby Elliott, Paloma Faith, Rebecca Ferguson, Neil Fitzmaurice, Richard Flack, Alan Hansen, Ren Harvieu, Paul Heaton, Tony Hicks, Holly Johnson, Mick Jones, Beverley Knight, Matthew Lewis, Gerry Marsden, Shane MacGowan, Dave McCabe, Paul McCartney, Jon McClure, Meredith Moore, Liam Nolan, Peter Reid, Will Roberts, Chris Sharrock, Oliver Som, Chris Taylor, Glenn Tilbrook, Will Pound, John Power, Robbie Williams, Jon Withnall, the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the LIPA Gospel Choir and of course Peter Hooton of The Farm.

The conclusion.

So the Hillsborough Verdict finally got it right! The long awaited search for the truth is eventually here, it's just an absolute disgrace that it has taken an unbelievable 27 years for it to happen. Many family members that had lost their loved ones as a result of the Hillsborough tragedy have already sadly passed away.

Shame on the Football Association for not heeding previous warnings and choosing such a dangerous venue, shame on Sheffield Wednesday FC for having no safety certificate in place and their management of the stadium, shame on the South Yorkshire Police for the tragedy and the continued 37 year cover-up, shame on the Ambulance Services for being so ineffective in their response, shame on the Tory Government for helping to perpetrate the lie, shame on the Labour Goverment for not getting justice sooner, shame on the media that were responsible for perpetrating those abhorrent lies and using the tragedy as a means to have a dig at scousers in general.

Well done to every one that backed the campaign for justice, well done to the people of Liverpool and the city region for their unwavering support for the truth, well done to the people of Sheffield for helping the fans on the day and supporting the fight for justice afterwards, well done to those few police officers that actually helped, well done to the few Ambulance staff that were a credit to their profession, but most of all, well done to the Hillsborough families for their relentless fight for the truth and the manner in which they achieved it!

The people, organisations and government institutions that are culpable for the tragedy and the cover-up that followed it should at the very least enter into a period of self-examination. Surely now those people, organisations and institutions responsible should be held to account. We've got the truth now, now it's time for justice!