Trevor Hicks, a man who lost his two daughters in the Hillsborough disaster, has behaved as leader of the Hillsborough Family Support Group with a calm dignity throughout the long, hard and ultimately succesful quest for truth (justice is another thing altogether). That’s not to say however that everything he says is correct. Such is the obvious emotive nature of the Hillsborough disaster that victims families have been given carte blanche to set the agenda into reform. If for example, anybody opposes all seater stadia, as many people in Liverpool itself does, then it’s as if they’re pissing on the memory of the victims of Hillsborough. This morning, I heard Trevor Hicks, along with Liverpool supporting Daily Mirror writer Brian Reade, on the Nicky Campbell breakfast show express the opinion that “One of the very few good things that’s come out of Hillsborough is that all seater stadiums are much better family enviroments where we don’t have a bunch of thugs going around swearing at each other”. That Hicks is an eloquent and decent man who’s tirelessly chased the truth from a lying police force and an ostrich like Labour and Tory government is beyond doubt. That said, it doesn’t give him any moral or legal authority to decree that everybody’s safer now in football stadia due to them being all seater.
One thing yesterdays released report confirmed was that it wasn’t terraces per-se that caused the Hillsborough disaster. It was the decrepit turnstiles and the lethal lack of escape route along with a police incompetence that turned into police deceit and corruption. In April 2001 at the all seated Ellis Park in Johannesburg, there was a crush at a match between Orlando Pirates and Kaiser Chiefs which killed 43 people. If standing is such a dangerous thing then why is it still permitted in the lower two professional leagues in English football? Why is permitted wholesale in Rugby League and how dangerous is it to have 20/25,000 people dancing on a football pitch during the summer close season ?
Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, April 11th 2001
A Chief Superintendant by the name of David Duckenfield was in charge of crowd control and crowd safety that afternoon. He obviously prioritised control over safety and it has now been established, that he ordered the exit gate to be opened on the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough, which lead to crush in the stadium. That same gate that he ordered open, is the same gate that he informally told some goons in the media that Liverpool fans had forced open. That he’s made a catastrophic error which has cost lives can just about be tolerated. He’s human, people make mistakes in pressure situations. Every year we celebrate and commemorate soldiers killed on the warfront in both the great wars due to similar incompetence of senior military personell. What makes Duckenfield behaviour so much worse is not so much the lies and manipulation to evade culpability, that’s abhorent enough, It is the scandalous apportion of blame onto the travelling Liverpool fans in Owlerton that day. For years decent if naive people (the no smoke without fire merchants), have believed that there must have been a mass of Liverpool fans who turned up without tickets, pissed and causing chaos at the turnstiles. While I have no doubt that there were Liverpool fans there without tickets and one or two may have had a pint too many, for the Police to collectively blame travelling Liverpool fans for their own fuck ups is the most sinister thing of all. At every major football match over the past century, fans have turned up pissed and without tickets. The worst thing that’s happened to the overwhelming majority of them, is getting thrown in the back of a police van, given a few slaps by the boys in blue and maybe a court appearance if the cops were in a real bad mood. This time, 96 of them died through no fault of their own.
Outside Leppings Lane, April 15th 1989
Anybody who knows me knows that I am no fan of Liverpool football club but what happened at Hillsborough transcends any feelings of disdain I have for their club. There’s a whole host of things that we can take the piss out of Liverpool for, I’m sure they’d say the same about us but to laugh at the deaths of these innocents at Hillsborough takes it to another level. I’ve heard people sing songs mocking the Hillsborough disaster, I’ve never felt comfortable with but I’ve never felt compelled to challenge them on it either. I feel no guilt about that, I’m not going to waste my energy trying to educate the wilfully ignorant or stupid. You get no thanks for it (to say the least) and they don’t listen anyway. Some of my fellow reds have been happy to swallow the line the police peddled about Liverpool fans being at fault for their own dying at Hillsborough. The irony of that is some of the lads who’ve had that hook, line and sinker generally have a very flexible interpretation of the law in their everyday lives. When the cap fits…