Many of the players and officials who had been present at Heysel in 1985 were still part of Liverpool football club when they went to play their FA cup semi-final game against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield on 15th April 1989.
5 minutes into the game and it was abandoned as the crowd behind the goal where Liverpool supporters were congregated started to spill onto the pitch. As the day unfolded it was found that overcrowding had resulted in the deaths of 96 supporters with a further 600 being injured. People were seen trying to climb fences to get away from the crush as more people came into the stadium.
The tragedy arose because of road works delaying people coming into the stadium. This caused a huge number of supporters arriving at the same time and the situation was not helped by some supporters going to the wrong turnstiles.
As the crowd could hear the teams entering the field of play those outside pushed eagerly forward. There was a request to delay the game, but this was denied. To relieve the pressure outside a gate was opened that allowed the 5000 waiting fans to enter the central terrace.
The surge of this large group of people at a fast walking pace resulted in a devastating crush at the front of the terrace. People were not redirected to the side terraces where were space and the front fence that had been erected to stop crowd invasions, acted in a manner that resulted in people being suffocated and crushed to death.
With the previous history of Heysel in 1985 and other hooligan incidents, the initial reaction was to lay the blame at the feet of the supporters. Hysteria followed in the press who blamed ticketless fans who were drunk. There were false newspaper reports that people were urinating on dying policemen and that people were stealing from the dead lying on the floor.
There was a cover up by the local police to what had really happened. The Taylor Report published in 1990 stated that South Yorkshire’s police claimed that the problem was caused by the drunk ticketless fans was simply not true. The main problem was that 3000 fans were directed into an area that could only hold 2000 people. According to the report the police officers did not want to accept any responsibility for the part that they played in the tragedy.
Taylor’s findings were confirmed in 2012 with the release of the report from the Hillsborough Independent Panel. As well as laying the blame on the police’s handling of the situation, it also revealed that 116 statements taken by the public were amended to change negative comments made about the police.
Following the publication of this report there were apologies issued by the South Yorkshire Police, David Cameron on behalf of the Government and Jack Straw on behalf of the opposition. The Sun newspaper also apologized for articles it had published in the aftermath of the disaster but despite this the Liverpool public has never forgiven the paper with its sales in the city still being extremely low.
Following Taylor’s recommendations all ground in the Football and Premier Leagues are now all-seater stadiums. This has led to the demolition of several grounds and the building of new stadiums across the country.
Whatever action has been taken nothing will ever replace those people who died on that eventful day. Much of the community of Liverpool was affected by those terrible events that saw 96 people between the ages of 10 and 67 losing their lives. There are permanent memorials erected in several locations including, at the football club, at Everton football club and even in South Africa. These supporters will never be forgotten.