“Over this great city,
Light after long dark;
The sweet silver song
Of the Lark”
I am a devout Manchester United supporter. I’m a little saddened by our loss to Manchester City in the Derby at Old Trafford this weekend. I am the very same supporter who is proud that we knocked Liverpool ‘off their perch’, and of the fact that we are on course to win a record 20th first division title. Chelsea’s 12-odd years of history does not trouble me, nor does Arsenal’s lack of ammunition.
What really troubles me though is the blind eye that some so-called hardcore supporters turn to instances of human tragedy in this beautiful game of football. When opposition supporters sing chants on the Munich Air Disaster, we fume at their insensitivity and lack of respect. However, why do we, as Manchester United supporters, then chose to ignore the same ideals when it comes to other clubs? Agreed, it’s a fact – Liverpool are the team United supporters love to poke fun at. Feel free to crack all kinds of jokes at their lack of trophies in recent years. Feel free to talk about the zero premier league titles they have won. This does not mean that we can extend the same jokes to the deaths of their supporters!
On 15th April, 1989, 24000 Liverpool supporters traveled to the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, for an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Sadly, 96 of them never returned. This incident had such an impact on the entire Liverpool community, that their supporters have even stopped chanting about Munich since then. Of course, a few Scousers still do, and thus give a bad name to the rest of the supporters as well. So what really happened at Hillsborough? Why has this incident received so much attention in the media and has been entangled in legal proceedings for so long?
The game was scheduled to kick off at 15:00. The Leppings Lane End at the stadium was the designated stand for the away supporters. Many supporters made their way on to the lower terraced stands, which were divided into ‘pens’, through a small number of turnstiles. Supporters moved towards pens 3 & 4, directly behind the goal. The official capacity of these pens’ was 2,200. However, this should have been reduced to 1,600, as the crush barriers installed did not meet official safety standards. By 14:50, these pens were fully occupied for all practical purposes.
The rush outside the stadium continued to grow. As a result, the police decided to open Exit Gate C at 14:52. This allowed about 2,000 supporters to enter a tunnel which led directly to pens 3 and 4. This sudden large influx caused severe crushing in the pens. People tried to jump the fence and climb into adjoining pens which were less crowded. At 15:05, a crush barrier in pen 3 gave way under the intense pressure, thereby causing fans to fall on top of each other. The game was stopped at 15:06. Supporters were trapped so tightly in the pens that many of them died of compressive asphyxiation while standing. On the spot.
The response of the authorities present at the scene was very lax and uncoordinated. A cordon was deployed by the police for the initial purpose of preventing opposition supporters from reaching each other. The very same cordon also stupidly refused to allow uninjured supporters to carry the injured to waiting ambulances. Again, the incompetent police allowed only 1 ambulance to enter the stadium, of the 44 which had arrived. The very same police then proceeded to slide all blame on the behavior of the Liverpool supporters, deceitfully claiming that majority of the crowd was drunk and tried to rush the gate.
After the disaster’s 20th anniversary, a new investigation was launched to alleviate concerns that some facts were deliberately covered up in the aftermath of the disaster. Thus, the Hillsborough Independent Panel was setup. When the Hillsborough Independent Panel published its findings on 12th September, 2012 – Liverpool breathed a sigh of relief and there was a feeling that justice had finally prevailed.
Manchester United traveled to Anfield on 23rd September, 2012. It was the first match at Anfield since the findings of the Panel had vindicated Liverpool supporters. The Panel concluded that 164 witness statements had been altered and 116 statements unfavourable to South Yorkshire Police had been removed. On this occasion, Sir Alex Ferguson implored both sets of supporters to stop their vile chants. He also wrote a letter to the supporters of Manchester United, which can be read below. SAF clearly said that both clubs need each other.
A pre-inquest hearing is going to take place on 25th April in London, for a new inquiry into the deaths of “The 96” who lost their lives in the tragedy. Here, at Football Paradise, we hope that we can keep the footballing community aware of such incidents and hope we all realize where the line needs to be drawn between football rivalry and humanity.
Justice For the 96
Gone but never forgotten