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Hillsborough: 33 Years of Red and White Tears

Hillsborough may just be a stadium in the United Kingdom but what took place there on April 19, 1989, brings with it a story that is well told as it is tragic.

These are the ninety-seven victims of the Hillsborough Disaster (Credit: BBC)

Thirty-four years ago, 97 men, women and children, along with thousands of other soccer fans arrived at the stadium to see Liverpool and Nottingham Forest contest the second semi-final of that year’s FA Cup.

These 97 men, women and children would suffocate in the Lepping Lanes pens 3 and 4, asphyxiated in a human crush that pushed them against the fences lining the pitch.

These people would not take the train back home to Merseyside. They would not pick up the bread and milk before returning home. They would not climb into their bed with memories of the games firmly etched into their mind. They were gone.

For Liverpool, for Merseyside, the pain would only be in its formative moments.

In the years between the catastrophe and the present day, numerous organisations have contributed to the intergenerational trauma that exists among Liverpuldians.

Only 4 months ago did the South Yorkshire police department apologise for their negligence on the day. This apology did not arrive with a plea for forgiveness, nor a promise to write the wrongs. The statements read like that of a celebrity who has been caught in an embarrassing situation.

Words such as “openness” and "candour" will forever reek hollow to those who read them. No training courses, no social media posts, and no community programs will ever wipe the stain that the department is covered in

Former Police Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield arrives at Preston Crown Court to face charges of manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster, in Preston. The charges were later dropped (Image credit: Getty Images)

The South Yorkshire police officer in command at the time of the event, David Duckenfield will die a free man, free of any legal or moral responsibility for the tragedy he is alleged to being complicit in.

The same alleged lack of responsibility concerning the tragedy can be attributed to The Sun. The paper significantly harmed the reputation of the city of Liverpool and the football club with their "The Truth" report.

The front page of The Sun on 19 April 1989

"The Truth" was all lies.

It accused drunk Liverpool fans of causing the human crush which took the lives of victims by storming the entry gates to access the ground without tickets.

It accused fans of stealing from the dead and preventing emergency service workers from giving life-saving treatment to the wounded.

These accusations have since been disproven in the 1990 Taylor's report, the 2012 Hillsborough Families report and the 2017 Jones report.

The report still impacts the paper to this day. Its journalists have been banned from Anfield and Goodison Park, home of Liverpool and their arch-rivals Everton, since 2017, as well as their training grounds of Melwood and Finch Park respectively.

Before the ban came into place, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made his position clear on the issue in a 2016 press conference. He rejected a question from a Sun journalist stating “I do not talk to The Sun anymore, I do not speak with The Sun anymore, it is not a personal thing”.

In 2015 investigative journalist Chris Horrie estimated the boycott enacted by some Merseysiders following the release of the report was costing the papers owners NewsCorp £15 million pounds a month with regard to 1989 inflation rates.

Sales are estimated to have dropped from 55,000 before the incident to 12,000 in the present day.

The Sun has no financial reason to change, the Press Gazette’s Charlotte Tobitt and Aisha Majid reported that as of March 2020, The Sun circulates 1.2 million copies monthly. That same year despite the pandemic raging across the world, NewsCorp reported $624 million in revenue.

Liverpool fans are faulted, as are all football fans. The scousers do not have a halo above their heads. Supporting them does not allow you the option of a superior moral standing over supporters of other teams.

The actions of Liverpool fans on the 29th of May 1985 stain the club to this day.

The Heysel Stadium disaster took the lives of 38 Juventus fans after a wall collapsed on them caused by the pressure of a human crush pushing up against it. The human crush started because of a riot that was blamed on Liverpool fans. Subsequently 14 of these men were charged with manslaughter. These convictions will stay with them and the football club they support even as they venture into the grave.

The chant of "always the victims'' is callous. It insults the memory of those killed but also disrespects the legacy their loved ones are trying to leave of them.

33 years ago today not only did 96 Liverpool fans die, rather 96 people who were loved by family and friends died on the steps of the Leeping Lanes end of Hillsborough Stadium.

The death tool would climb by one in July 2021 when Andrew Devin passed away from brain damage he suffered in the incident.

There is also the tragic case of Stephen Whittle. who who was tortured his whole life by his decision to give his ticket to a mate who subsequently died in the disaster before his own death in 2011.

Much has, and will be written about Hillsborough, from those who experienced the tragedy in person, and from those who write about the hard work foundations such as the Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance do to get the recognition and publicity they deserve.

As philosopher George Santayana once said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Even as recently as March this year there were complaints of overcrowding and crushing at the 3rd FA Cup tie between Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United. The legacy of the victims must not only be maintained in words but also crucially in actions.

The final word will go to the the BBC’s Peter Jones who was at the ground on the day of the incident:

‘The red and white scarves, bobble hats and rosettes of Liverpool. Nothing else out there on the enclosure where all the deaths occurred… The sun shines now.’

Justice for the 97.

A Liverpool and Everton Mascot stand side by side in a tribute to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster after the release of the Hillsborough Report. (Photo: Clint Hughes/Associated Press)


This piece addresses confronting themes.

If it raises issues for you, you may call:

Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636

Lifeline on 13 11 14.

In an emergency, always call triple-zero.

Adam Miller


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