The Hillsborough disaster: 32 years ago, when football stood still - and united

April 15, 2021 marks precisely 32 years since the event that has come to be known as the Hillsborough tragedy took place.

A file photo of Anfield paying tribute to victims of the Hillsborough disaster. (Image: Twitter)
By Shayne Dias | Apr 15, 2021 | 2 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

April 15, 2021 marks precisely 32 years since the event that has come to be known as the Hillsborough disaster took place. The tragedy occured before an FA Cup semi-final encounter between Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday at the latter side’s home ground – Hillsborough Stadium. Before kick-off, the police match commander David Duckenfield ordered exit gate C opened in an attempt to ease overcrowding outside the entrance turnstiles. However, this only led to an influx of even more supporters to the standing-only pens. This led to a collapse of the stand, which in turn saw 96 people die and 766 injured.

The Hillsborough disaster led to the most deaths due to a sporting event in British history. Its aftereffects were even more overreaching.

At first, the death of all people in the disaster was ruled accidental. This first coroner’s report, however, was rejected by families of the victims.

Years of public pressure followed and, as a result, a second coroner’s inquest was held from 2014-16. This report made clear that supporters were unlawfully killed. Grossly negligent failures by police and ambulance services to fulfil their duty of care.

Furthermore, the design of the stadium was to blame for the collapse of the stand. As such, blame was no longer assigned to the fans.

Hillsborough disaster media coverage

The media coverage around the disaster focused largely on the story angle that hooliganism and drunken bad behavior of Liverpool fans was responsible for the event.

Tabloid newspaper The Sun were perhaps the biggest offenders in this regard. A front page headline ‘The Truth’ appeared 4 days later in the newspaper.

Yet the claims made after the headline were false. These included accusations that Liverpool fans urinated on policemen, pickpocketed the dead and beat up police constables.

The false media coverage led to people in the city of Liverpool boycotting the newspaper. This is something in effect to this day.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has famously refused to answer press conference questions from Sun reporters. Residents of the city refer to the newspaper as ‘The Scum’ or even ‘The S*n’.

Stands no more

The other effect has been the move towards all-seater stadiums, especially in the Premier League and the Championship.

This was largely to do with Lord Justice Taylor, who was appointed to conduct an inquiry into the events. The Taylor Report, as it is now known, had sweeping effects on stadiums across the country.

Stands still exist in certain stadiums around the country. However, the top two divisions mandate that fans allowed into stadiums only remain seated.

There have been calls made to bring in ‘safe standing’ across stadiums. The reason given is to add more of an atmosphere to games. However, the issue hasn’t progressed much in recent years.

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