Archive for category Football

The 96 – 7 minutes for 25 years

As all this weekend’s football matches kick off seven minutes late, to commemorate the time that the semi-final between Forest and Liverpool at Hillsborough was called off, on 15 April 1989, and as the inquests into the deaths of 96 men, women and children proceed in Warrington, we seem to be within reach of truth and justice at last.

For so long, any time anyone tried to tell the real story of what happened – the failures in planning and organisation, the lies, the callous treatment of the bereaved – they were immediately countered with the narrative that was propagated so assiduously in the days after the tragedy, most notoriously by the Sun.  It had become an accepted fact that the cause of the disaster was the behaviour of drunken, ticketless fans, arriving late and forcing their way into the ground, even when the Taylor report scotched so many of these cynical fabrications.  Finally, with the report of the Independent Panel, and the overwhelming weight of evidence to vindicate the families’ and survivors’ accounts, that has irrevocably changed.

Too late for too many, and just too bloody late – how could it have taken so long for the truth that was known at the time, even as the events unfolded, to be brought back into the light?

I do not know how the families and survivors have sustained their fight for so long, and at what terrible cost.  But I know that a sense of justice has driven them on.  Of course they have been fighting for the people they loved who never came back from that football match, of course.  But it isn’t just personal – it comes from a deeper sense of what is right, what is fair, and a refusal to let lies stand in place of truth.  I was privileged to meet, very briefly, the father of one of the victims a couple of years ago, and what struck me most powerfully was his belief that the values that he held dear, and that he had passed on to his son, were being betrayed, in the vilification of the victims and the deliberate falsification of evidence, in the lack of respect for those who attended the match on that day, and those who loved them.

I am indebted to Gerry, from the wonderful That’s How the Light Get’s In blog, for finding this very apt quotation from Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop:

the world would do well to reflect, that injustice is in itself, to every generous and properly constituted mind, an injury, of all others the most insufferable, the most torturing, and the most hard to bear; and that many clear consciences have gone to their account elsewhere, and many sound hearts have broken, because of this very reason; the knowledge of their own deserts only aggravating their sufferings, and rendering them the less endurable.

They have, nonetheless, endured.  And the seven minute delay and the 96 empty seats remind us again of what was lost, as the inquest testimonies remind us that each of the 96 had names, stories, hopes and aspirations, and people who loved them.

They’re not alone, they haven’t walked alone, they never will.

RIP the 96

 

http://nowtmuchtosay.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/11th-february-1989/

http://gerryco23.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/dickens-injustice-and-hillsborough/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26765007

http://cathannabel.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/15-april-1989/

http://cathannabel.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/15-april-1989-finally-the-truth-now-for-justice/

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Justice for the Hillsborough Families

cathannabel:

Gerry’s blog, That’s How the Light Gets In, marks the vindication of the Hillsborough victims, survivors and families with Dickensian reflections on injustice.  RIP the 96, and massive respect to the campaigners.

Originally posted on That's How The Light Gets In:

The_Justice_Collective_-_He_Ain't_Heavy,_He's_My_Brother

I’m currently reading The Old Curiosity Shop and, in one of those curious coincidences without which Dickens’ plots would have ground to a halt, I read the following passage shortly after hearing news that the Hillsborough families are one step closer to justice:

Let moralists and philosophers say what they may, it is very questionable whether a guilty man would have felt half as much misery that night, as Kit did, being innocent. The world, being in the constant commission of vast quantities of injustice, is a little too apt to comfort itself with the idea that if the victim of its falsehood and malice have a clear conscience, he cannot fail to be sustained under his trials, and somehow or other to come right at last; ‘in which case,’ say they who have hunted him down, ‘—though we certainly don’t expect it—nobody will be better pleased than we.’ Whereas…

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15 April 1989 – finally, the truth. Now for justice?

On the last anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, I wrote this, which summed up my feelings about an appalling tragedy which happened just across the valley from my home:

…the awful truth is that no matter how many of those fans were drunk and how many were there without tickets, if there had been stewards in front of the entrances to the Leppings Lane pens, directing fans away from the already crowded central pen, then no one would have died.  No one.  It’s horrifically, tragically, simple.

Taylor called this a ‘blunder of the first magnitude’.  From this blunder stemmed the desperate attempts by South Yorkshire Police to cover their own backs, to blame the fans, to propagate distortions and falsehoods that would persuade the public that what we had here was yet another example of football hooliganism, rather than a terrible error by those in authority.  That’s why, despite the regular calls for the victims’ families to ‘move on’ and ‘let it go’ (clichés favoured in general by those who have not experienced anything approaching this degree of trauma ), there is still a need for information to be brought into the public domain, for light to be shed and records to be set straight.  If there had been a swift acknowledgement that a hideous mistake had been made, and the energies of the authorities had been channeled with as much vigour into helping both the victims and their families as they were into blaming them, then the families would be grieving rather than campaigning, commemorating the ones they’d lost rather than fighting for the truth to be told and the lies to be nailed once and for all.

Today we have a report which vindicates the victims and their families, which confirms that the biggest disaster at a sporting event in our history triggered the biggest police cover-up in our history.

There’s now a mass of information available, and analysis of that information, and I don’t intend to attempt to  summarise that here.   The thing that has struck me most forcefully is how early the ‘disgraceful lies’ began.  Even whilst people were still dying on the terraces and on the pitch, the allegation that a gate had been forced influenced the initial reaction to the unfolding disaster.  The first reference to ticketless fans came soon afterwards, and by the following day the ‘surge’ of fans had become ‘crazed’ and allegations of drunkenness were introduced.   The language became more and more extreme and hostile – violent, beasts, frenzy – and, on Tuesday 18 April, ‘writing in the Liverpool Daily Post, John Williams noted that ‘the gatecrashers wreaked their fatal havoc’, their ‘uncontrolled fanaticism and mass hysteria … literally squeezed the life out of men, women and children …It was ‘yobbism at its most base’ (2.12.24).  The allegations that would form the basis of the Sun‘s infamous ‘The Truth’ report appeared in the Sheffield Star on the 18th – ‘yobs’ attacking and urinating on the emergency services and this was elaborated further with stories of thieving from the dead and dying.   Subsequently, as we now know, police and emergency service records were changed to support this version of events, and to camouflage the loss of control and the failures of judgement of those in authority on the day.

How was it possible for the truth to be buried so completely under a mountain of lies?    You start with a little lie, that plays on a potent and widely accepted stereotype.   You let that little lie grow, and accrue details that add to its verisimilitude.   You allow comments made in the middle of chaos by distressed and traumatised people to be disseminated as objective first-hand statements, as long as they back up the little lie and its accretions.  And you bury, redact and suppress all testimony that contradicts them.

The odd thing is that the little lie was corrected on the day of the disaster.  No matter, its work had been done.  And the Taylor report nailed most of the stories that had grown from that first lie.  No matter, every time Hillsborough was mentioned in the ensuing decades, the calumnies would be trotted out again, and again.

Maybe now that will change, finally, with the report and the apology from South Yorkshire Police, which acknowledges not only the loss of control on the day but the disgraceful attempt to cover it up with lies.

But now that we have the truth, the survivors and the families of those who died – the 96 who need not have died if a football match had not been hideously mismanaged, the 41 who perhaps might not have died if the emergency services had responded swiftly and appropriately – want justice.    And with the possibility of criminal prosecutions, and new inquests, maybe justice too will prevail.

RIP the 96

Jack Alfred Anderson, 62

English: Hillsborough Disaster Memorial - 2, H...

English: Hillsborough Disaster Memorial – 2, Hillsborough, Sheffield 1254629 1254666 1254673 1182326 725321 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Colin Mark Ashcroft, 19, student

James Gary Aspinall, 18

Kester Roger Marcus Ball, 16, student

Gerard Baron Snr, 67

Simon Bell, 17

Barry Sidney Bennett, 26

David John Benson, 22

David William Birtle, 22

Tony Bland, 22

Paul David Brady, 21

Andrew Mark Brookes, 26

Carl Brown, 18

Steven Brown, 25

Henry Thomas Burke, 47

Peter Andrew Burkett , 24

Paul William Carlile, 19

Raymond Thomas Chapman , 50

Gary Christopher Church, 19

Joseph Clark, 29

Paul Clark, 18

Gary Collins, 22

Stephen Paul Copoc, 20

Tracey Elizabeth Cox, 23

James Philip Delaney, 19

Christopher Barry Devonside, 18

Christopher Edwards, 29

Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons, 34

Steve Fox, 21

Jon-Paul Gilhooley, 10

Barry Glover, 27

Ian Thomas Glover, 20

Derrick George Godwin, 24

Roy Harry Hamilton, 34

Philip Hammond, 14

Eric Hankin, 33

Gary Harrison, 27

Stephen Francis Harrison, 31

Peter Andrew Harrison, 15

David Hawley, 39

James Robert Hennessy, 29

Paul Anthony Hewitson, 26

Carl Hewitt, 17

Nick Hewitt, 16

Sarah Louise Hicks, 19

Victoria Jane Hicks, 15

Gordon Rodney Horn, 20

Arthur Horrocks, 41

Thomas Howard, 39

Tommy Anthony Howard, 14

Eric George Hughes, 42

Alan Johnston, 29

Christine Anne Jones, 27

Gary Philip Jones, 18

Richard Jones, 25

Nicholas Peter Joynes, 27

Anthony Peter Kelly, 29

Michael Kelly, 38

Carl David Lewis, 18

David William Mather, 19

Brian Christopher Matthews, 38

Francis Joseph McAllister, 27

John McBrien, 18

Marian Hazel McCabe, 21

Joe McCarthy, 21

Peter McDonnell, 21

Alan McGlone, 28

Keith McGrath, 17

Paul Brian Murray, 14

Lee Nicol, 14

Stephen Francis O’Neill, 17

Jonathon Owens, 18

William Roy Pemberton, 23

Carl Rimmer, 21

Dave Rimmer, 38

Graham John Roberts, 24

Steven Joseph Robinson, 17

Henry Charles Rogers, 17

Andrew Sefton, 23

Inger Shah, 38

Paula Ann Smith, 26

Adam Edward Spearritt, 14

Philip John Steele, 15

David Leonard Thomas, 23

Pat Thompson, 35

Peter Reuben Thompson, 30

Stuart Thompson, 17

Peter Francis Tootle, 21

Christopher James Traynor, 26

Martin Kevin Traynor, 16

Kevin Tyrrell, 15

Colin Wafer, 19

Ian David Whelan, 19

Martin Kenneth Wild, 29

Kevin Daniel Williams, 15

Graham John Wright, 17

 

http://www.fleetstreetfox.com/2012/09/hooligan-n-rough-lawless-person.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/hillsborough-documents-released-brian-reade-1318730

http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk/report

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/apr/14/hillsborough-post-traumatic-stress-disorder?CMP=twt_gu

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15 April 1989

I wasn’t at Hillsborough that day, though I’d thought of going, my first football match in years, to watch my team, perhaps meet up with my brothers, like old times. Instead I was standing in our kitchen just the other side of the valley, wondering what was going on, why they weren’t playing football. I’d have known little more had I been there – I would have been a football pitch away from the people dying behind the goal, and I would have been frustrated at the delays, and angry with the troublemakers. Instead I was watching and listening all that afternoon and evening as grief and horror and disbelief mounted.

I wasn’t there that day but I remember afternoons in the Trent End, when a surge from the back of the crowd forced me stumbling forwards, feeling very small and vulnerable, trying to keep my footing, or pressed against a barrier till my ribs were bruised, and I can imagine so easily how it happened. I can understand after so many other games ruined in those days by people who cared more about fighting than football, some of the cumulative, and catastrophic errors in planning, in crowd management, in communication, in emergency response.

But I can’t understand how long it took to see that there were people dying, how the pleas and desperate cries could have been ignored, for so long. And I can’t understand why the injured and the survivors and the families desperately searching for their sons and daughters and partners were treated as criminals, why information was withheld from them, why misinformation was wilfully disseminated (and not just by The Sun).  I can’t understand why, still, after the Taylor report, and all of the information we now have in the public domain, the old lies about drunk and/or ticketless fans being to blame are still trotted out, every time that day is discussed.

I’m not naive enough to believe that everyone at the Liverpool end behaved impeccably – some may well have had a drink or several, some may well have headed across the Pennines hoping to get a ticket when they got here, or to get in without.  But actually, that’s by the by.  Because the awful truth is that no matter how many of those fans were drunk and how many were there without tickets, if there had been stewards in front of the entrances to the Leppings Lane pens, directing fans away from the already crowded central pen, then no one would have died.  No one.  It’s horrifically, tragically, simple.

Taylor called this a ‘blunder of the first magnitude’.  From this blunder stemmed the desperate attempts by South Yorkshire Police to cover their own backs, to blame the fans, to propagate distortions and falsehoods that would persuade the public that what we had here was yet another example of football hooliganism, rather than a terrible error by those in authority.  That’s why, despite the regular calls for the victims’ families to ‘move on’ and ‘let it go’ (clichés favoured in general by those who have not experienced anything approaching this degree of trauma ), there is still a need for information to be brought into the public domain, for light to be shed and records to be set straight.  If there had been a swift acknowledgement that a hideous mistake had been made, and the energies of the authorities had been channeled with as much vigour into helping both the victims and their families as they were into blaming them, then the families would be grieving rather than campaigning, commemorating the ones they’d lost rather than fighting for the truth to be told and the lies to be nailed once and for all.

That afternoon twenty-three years ago is vivid in my memory, and I’m thinking as I do each year of all the people who never came home from that match, and all the people who waited for someone who never came home, and all the people who still live with that horror.

You’ll never walk alone.

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