Archive for the ‘Hillsborough’ Category

Hillsborough Memorial - 25th Anniversary

Last night, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series aired Daniel Gordon’s long-anticipated two hour documentary Hillsborough. The film documents the 1989 stadium disaster in Sheffield during Liverpool’s FA Cup semifinal against Nottingham Forest, and the efforts by the South Yorkshire Police—with an assist from the Sun newspaper—to paint what was essentially a deadly failure in crowd control as the tragic result of hooliganism.

Thought the story is not new, rarely has the moral of Hillsborough been made so clear. Hillsborough is not about football, nor is it about the place of Hillsborough in the ritualism of Liverpool fandom. These are elements of the story, but they’re not at its core. Gordon wisely focuses his lens elsewhere.

Hillsborough here is about the overwhelming, exhausting burden injustice places on the shoulders of ordinary families. It is about the parents, children and siblings of 96 victims traveling on buses to countless inquests and inquiries, carrying on in the face of the South Yorkshire Police who took blood alcohol samples from dead children even as they kept them from their parents’ final touch, constables who thought nothing of altering countless police statements to suit their ends, newspapers which printed police lies verbatim, politicians who made off-hand jokes about the death of just under one hundred people.

It is about the tendency of power to preserve itself, even at the cost of victimizing the very people that power is intended to serve.

It is fascinating to read the reactions from younger fans of football clubs of all stripes on sites like Reddit, beginning to comprehend that “Justice for the 96″ is more than a Kopite chant. It is a battle cry for all fans of the sport, and a warning for anyone who still comforts themselves with the belief that something like this could not happen again. Try and catch this doc when and if you can…

After the violence at the Tyne-Wear derby, it’s good to commemorate a moment when rivals can come together as one. “It could have been us.”

The Lead

Amid all the international news this weekend, this one came like a shot in the dark:

The [Independent Police Complaints Commission] is to launch a major, wide-ranging investigation into allegations of misconduct by South Yorkshire police, West Midlands police and others arising from the Hillsborough independent panel report published last month.

The director of public prosecutions (DPP), Kier Starmer, has also announced that he will immediately review all the evidence in the 395-page report to decide whether new charges of manslaughter can be brought.

“I have now concluded that the Crown Prosecution Service should consider all the material now available in relation to the tragic events of 15 April 1989, including material made available by the independent panel,” Starmer said.

It serves to remember that despite recent revelations, including those in the Hillsborough Independent Panel report which led to today’s headline, the calls from grieving family members over the last two decades weren’t “Independent Inquiries for the 96!” This announcement is the closest aggrieved Liverpool supporters have come to justice being served for the negligence that led to the crush at Leppings Lane.

And lest the reader get their back up over the LFC ‘cult’ surrounding the FA Cup semi-final in 1989, it cannot be said enough: this must be treated like a disaster waiting to happen, a disaster that could have taken the lives of any and all fans of club football in England. It just happened to be Liverpool that day. This is not about one club, but about closing the chapter on a sad era in English football.
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By Alex Netherton & Andi Thomas

If there’s anything that should cheer up any football fan, or indeed human being, then the increasing transparency on the Hillsborough tragedy and conspiracy should be close to the top. Given that ninety-six people died, pointlessly and unnecessarily, and their families have been denied both the truth and justice, nobody can resent the recent developments. The Hillsborough report last week laid bare the lies, conspiracies and wilful failures of the government, press and police in England. Nobody was surprised, despite the revelations that at least forty-live lives might have been saved had people been aware of their responsibilities. Nobody was surprised, despite the extensive miscarriage of justice carried out by the South Yorkshire police force. Nobody was surprised, despite the callous treatment of football fans from Liverpool by a rampantly despicable Conservative party.

Miserably, the coverage of the report was interrupted by football itself. Ordinarily, it would be no awful thing, but this time it was a meeting of Liverpool and Manchester United, among the most bitter rivals in English football. Manchester United and Liverpool have a history of grim behaviour towards one another that runs the gamut of the lowest common denominator. There are chants about the deaths at Heysel, Hillsborough and Munich. There’s human faeces and the rocking of ambulances. There are golf balls adorned with nails and there’s racial abuse. There are jokes about state benefits and people eating rats. If you wanted to show people the worst aspects of football (besides Alan Shearer), it’s this fixture. If you wanted to demonstrate some of the best football in England ever played, you’d probably point to these two sides’ pasts as well.

But not their presents. If you like entertaining football, then United were not the side to watch on Sunday. They have a hole in their midfield which has been apparent for the past three years, a spinelessness apparent since the release of Carlos Tevez, and a fragility apparent since the Glazers took over United and oversaw the destruction of one of Europe’s most resilient squads. A Liverpool victory seemed inevitable. When Jonjo Shelvey was sent off for his completely unacceptable name, victory seemed no less likely. If you were told Manchester United were playing against ten men, you’re reaction would not have been, ‘I thought it was the other way around,’ it would have been, ‘Oh. They’re still terrible, gutless wimps who deserve defeat.’
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It’s unfortunate in many ways, but a seeming apprehension over how fans will respond to the Hillsborough commemoration is overshadowing the match itself between Manchester United and Liverpool this weekend. Sir Alex Ferguson has written a letter appealing to fans to uphold the great traditions of the club.

He also responded to questions about how it might affect his players’ preparation:

“It’s a possibility, I don’t deny that,” said Ferguson.

“Human nature can be that way. When we played Manchester City for the 50th anniversary of Munich the place was so flat in the dressing room before the game. I even felt it myself.

“We just couldn’t perform and were glad to get it out the way.

“It was such an emotional day for us and it could be that way on Sunday.”

I suppose a major commemoration was inevitable, but after such a simple and tasteful gesture at Everton, to have this kind of media build-up seems to have undermined the purpose of remembering an event that affected all English football supporters, a lesson further underlined in light of evidence of warning letters written to the FA over the ground before 1989.

At Goodison Park ahead of the Monday kick off against Newcastle. Two ‘mascots’ (the kids in kits for our local readers), one in an Everton shirt, the other wearing Liverpool read. Together form 96. Images of victims shown on the big screen. “He Ain’t Heavy” by the Hollies over the sound system.

Simple. Beautiful, without any forced football metaphors. Another lovely evening at Goodison Park.

Bravo, Everton.

The Lead

It’s perhaps a sign of the enormous change in English football over the last twenty-three years that on the day the families of Hillsborough stadium crush victims rejected the Football Association chair David Bernstein’s artless apology for his organization’s role in the disaster—namely, for allowing an FA Cup semifinal to go forward at a stadium without a safety certificate—Manchester City revealed plans for a state-of-the-art academy to operate adjacent to the Etihad stadium.

Where it was once the purview of angry young men, the English game is entering an age of “branding walls,” executive boxes, boardrooms within football parks designed with an eye to maximizing the Allen curve. The notion of a cordoned off stadium terrace like Sheffield Wednesday’s Leppings Lane, in which fans are penned in like animals under the watchful eye of indifferent police, now seems like something from the Dark Ages, not par for the status quo a mere two decades and change ago.

Despite the radical improvements in crowd safety and stadium facilities over the past two decades, it’s not clear that the intentions of the footballing ruling class, whether those who run the clubs or governing bodies, are any more benign now than they were in 1989. A cynic might point out that it took the establishment of the Premier League, in accordance with the principles of the Taylor Report, for those who run English football to realize the real money lay in gentrification, branding, complex investment models—all of which required at the very least safe, modern all-seater stadiums, and for police to treat fans as customers rather than a potential mob. The same exploitation of fans still exists, but with a glossy smiley face.

It’s worth asking: as long as fans are safe and the days of a Bradford and Hillsborough are long behind us, does it matter?

Surely it’s far better for average fans to be priced out of season tickets than to be able to attend games in decrepit stadiums, crushed within crumbling terraces guarded with spiked fences. If faced with a choice, would we not accept the current globalized and financially isolated Premier League in place of the non-televised English First Division rife with hooligan violence, unsafe stadiums, and police abuse?

Now that we’re on the subject, isn’t the rise of the Premier League itself the story of the past thirty years of economic development in the West? In which the welfare state lost out to neoliberalism but in turn generated far greater wealth, unsustainable and financially irresponsible as it may be? Is that too lofty a question for the Footy Blog on a Friday ahead of the return of domestic club football?

Hey, what’s this about Drogba going to Arsenal
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