Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Hillsborough Tragedy

On this day exactly 20 years ago Britain experienced its worst ever sporting disaster. A total of 96 fans died in the Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, when Liverpool played Nottingham Forest in the semi-final of the FA Cup. As Liverpool fans swarmed an already full stand at the Leppings Lane end of the ground, more were let into the back of the stand. A police spokesman said orders were given for the gate to be opened because they believed the pressure of fans outside the ground was "a danger to life." But as fans rushed in, those already there were pushed forward and crushed against the high, wire-topped safety fences. It was estimated that more than 2,000 Liverpool fans had still not got into the stadium when the match started at 3 p.m. Within five minutes of the kick-off terrified fans were spilling through a narrow gap onto the pitch, whilst others were being lifted into the seating area above. At this point a policeman ran onto the pitch and ordered the referee to stop the game. Ironically, recent improved safety measures introduced at grounds to keep fans apart meant, for many, there was no escape. Among the bodies who had been lifted onto the pitch were many teenagers and children. At least 200 fans were injured, some seriously, and were ferried to ambulances on improvised stretchers made from crash barriers and advertising hoardings. Some fans blamed bad ticket allocation for the disaster. Despite having far more supporters than Nottingham Forest, Liverpool fans were given 6,000 fewer tickets and allocated the smaller Leppings Lane stand. Relatives of the victims pressed for police officers in charge to be prosecuted. In 2002 the two most senior officers were put on trial. One was acquitted , charges against the other were dropped when the jury could not agree on a verdict. Some good came out of the tragedy. Following a public inquiry new safety measures were introduced at football grounds around Britain.