A few words about Hillsborough

The Hillsborough inquest verdict came through yesterday, and it completely vindicated what the families of those 96 dead have been saying for 27 years that their loved ones weren’t responsible for their deaths. In fact the authorities failed and then spent decades systematically covering up the facts so the idea that ticketless Liverpool fans rushed gates, or were drunk or were pushing others to their deaths (if you let a crowd into a confined space they’re going to push ahead, so that’s not the fault of the people, but those that didn’t read the situation properly) have been shot down in flames yet a cursory look at Twitter today reveals people still push these lies and frankly, offensive bullshit.

Throughout the decades the people of Liverpool and fans of Liverpool F.C took reams and reams of abuse and insults. In fact the lies started piling up quickly with that infamous Sun newspaper cover which today’s Metro scathingly parodies with brilliant effectiveness.

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I wrote at the start of this inquest of how the 96 should be remembered, but now the truth has been exposed it’s hopefully a matter of time before people face criminal charges, but they’ll be people who’ll escape legal action who deserve to be remembered in their part in all this.

I hope I’m wrong but Kelvin McKenzie will probably avoid any legal action (some are talking of him being charged with perverting the course of justice and aiding in a cover up) but his role in the cover up and smearing of the living and dead should never be forgotten. The uncharacteristic silence from a man who talks shite in the same way the rest of us breathe is deafening, but I don’t imagine it’ll last long.

Then there’s Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s former press secretary who blamed the disaster on drunken Liverpool fans and didn’t mind telling people that.  There’s Boris Johnson, who leaped upon the people of Liverpool in this column in the Spectator in 2004, that was partly written by Simon Heffer.  I could mention Jack Straw who decided within five weeks of Labour coming to power in 1997 that there wasn’t a need for a new inquiry.

There’s also the thousands upon thousands of Keyboard Warriors who’ve bravely slandered the dead from the safety of anonymous user names on message boards and social media for most of this century. Most of all though it’s The Sun’s role in ensuring that the lie got embedded from the off that’s going to be remembered for as long as this story drags on. There’s many good reasons never to buy The Sun, but this is by far the biggest because it’s a matter of solidarity and well as hurting an organisation that contributed in making people’s lives hell for 27 years and slurring the names of the 96 dead fans.

A lot of people and organisations are going to be consulting lawyers today and they’ll be worried, even scared of their own future but I have no sympathy. If you played a part in helping this develop from a grotesque act of negligence to a criminal cover up then I hope you get your day in court.

I missed the verdict unfold live yesterday as I was going through my own personal drama but when I did eventually see the images from yesterday I was struck but the sheer sense of relief and the dignity of the families, who have been fighting this from generation to generation. Hopefully the fight ends with this generation and justice is finally served.

Remember the 96

On the 15th of April it’s the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, which is a polite way of describing a massive failure of the police to keep people safe, and it’s subsequent cover up by the establishment and much of the media who firmly swallowed the establishment line. Of course a few people like David Conn and publications like Private Eye helped keep hope alive for the families that we’d actually get to the point where we are now that the government has apologised (especially surprising as it came from a Tory PM) , and a new inquest has been opened. It’s important that one of the greatest slanders against a group of victims and the people of Liverpool is corrected.

Of course football fans, or at least a huge number of fans at the time knew better. When I’d moved from Scotland to England in 1988 I was astounded by the state of most grounds I went to but then I’d gotten used to Scottish grounds being improved after various disasters and acts of hooliganism. I was also shocked by how the police would shunt fans around like we were criminals and this was just in Leicester, so how much worse it would have been for the bigger clubs fans like Liverpool I couldn’t say, but I can imagine.

The reaction to Hillsborough from football fans is still remarkable, especially to anyone used to the utterly tribalist Sky era where people who’ve never been near a football ground in their life get fanatical about a team they’ve never seen live in a city hundreds, if not thousands of miles away.

For example, the respect from AC Milan fans in the in the 1989 European Cup semi final between Milan and Real Madrid is still amazing.

The minutes silence before the memorial game between Liverpool and Celtic (the first game Liverpool played after the disaster)  is also immensely touching, especially with the memories of the Ibrox disaster still in the minds of many Glaswegians.

There’s also the links between Liverpool and Olympiacos due to both clubs suffering similar tragedies so fans knew better than what they were being told in the press by newspapers who I refuse to mention. Fans knew better. People who informed themselves knew better which is one thing Christopher Eccleston mentions in this fascinating Q & A about the ITV film Hillsborough he starred in back in 1996.

For myself I remember where I was back then. I was living in Leicester and in those days pubs closed at 3pm with live TV coverage being a rare thing indeed so I remember doing a bit of shopping in town, before having a drink or four in The Globe before heading home to listen to the semi finals on the radio. This was before Five Live, so sports coverage on BBC Radio used to be shared on Radio 2 with the great Peter Jones being an authoritative voice of football. The man was a journalist and a football fan and it’s to his commentary that I listened to that day as I was expecting to listen to a thrilling game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest and got a blow by blow account of the horror unfold as narrated by Peter Jones.

His final report is is one of those things that will live with you if you’ve never heard it before.

So, remember the 96. Think about what it’s taken for the families to get to the stage where they are now as they’ve fought for justice for 25 long, painful years and think about what’s still to come in the search for justice for 96 people who only went to watch a football match one Saturday afternoon.  Support the families regardless of what club you support as it’s about ensuring justice for fellow football fans and human beings so that finally, perhaps some sort of end to this can finally be had.