Sunday 16 September 2012

Hillsborough and the British disease

I was genuinely shocked by the new report on Hillsborough  this week.

There was already a lot we kinda knew already.

We knew why it happened and where the fault lay – The Taylor report was broadly correct in its assertions - both the initial report and the recommendations.

We knew the Sun lied and published a disgraceful article and that was down to Kelvin Mackenzie personally.

We knew the police tried to sanitise, spin and doctor statements – but it was shocking to see the full extent of it.

We knew the authorities in the 1980s treated fans like cattle or criminals and viewed policing football  as a public order matter not a safety one.

We knew that the 3.15 cut off time for assuming everyone was dead or beyond help was almost certainly wrong.

But I didn’t realise about the failure of the ambulance service and the major incident procedure.

Shockingly and tragically we didn't know that the crush having happened the emergency services could maybe have / should have been able to save the lives of some of the 96 who were not killed straight away.

I was shocked by the pomposity and apparent foolishness of the coroner’s report which I didn’t fully realise about.  Shocked by the way it assessed the evidence and treated the fans. Read about it here

I was shocked by the failure of the FA, Sheffield Wednesday and presumably the local authority. Leppings Lane was a known death trap. After Bradford we knew fences weren’t safe. The ground didn’t even have a safety certificate!!!!

Why did the FA use Hillsborough? And Sheffield Wednesday knew about the problems of the inadequate turnstiles and the dangers of Leppings Lane – its down sloping tunnel, its pen, its inadequate crowd number control, its propensity for crushing that put spectators in mortal danger - its near misses of tragedy at other games in the 1980s.

While the police are – quite rightly- criticised, why are we not asking some very serious questions of the FA and Sheffield Wednesday. We forget how responsible they appear and how foolish some of their actions seem in hindsight.

The authorities failed the fans. The police - a body there to protect us - when push came to shove, just protected itself.   It was shocking – an outrage and profoundly undemocratic and therefore disturbing.

As Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News observed this seems to be the British pattern: disaster, flawed legal inquiry, cover-up, campaign, wilderness years, proper inquiry, and finally an apology.  He cites Bloody Sunday, the Marchioness, the Mull of Kintyre and now Hillsborough as examples.  Repeated state cover-ups when the heat's on and careers are at stake.  It is shocking and it is not good enough.

Which is why it is still important today and why it is important to move onto the next stage in the pursuit of justice.

But lets not forget the FA and Sheffield Wednesday, who I think have as many questions to answer as South Yorkshire Police for the Hillsborough disaster.

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