Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Football Focus - 20th anniversary of Hillsborough disaster .

It all occurred twenty years ago today.

James Lawton explains why the police have a case to answer:

Maybe, worst of all, was the sense that nobody seemed to care. A group of policemen and women, without deployment, stood in a circle, talking among themselves.

It was surreal, a nightmare from which there could be no awakening. A mounted policeman tried to wheel, unsuccessfully, in space that was being filled more tightly with every second as more people were pressed down on the gate, and the flash of panic across his face was, you knew the moment you saw it, something you would never forget. It told you that in that hellish side of a football ground no one's safety could be guaranteed.

There was no control, no leadership, no apparent awareness of the odds rising so swiftly, so inexorably, against the possibility of averting a tragedy.

Now, after all the research and irrefutable evidence and documentation, the public knows, if they care to, the anatomy of this tragedy.

They know of the failures of the police, their deceits, their refusal to officially acknowledge any direct responsibility for what happened, and the lack of success in the private prosecution of the commander who was allowed to retire, without the disciplinary action recommended by the official Taylor report, on grounds of ill-health and on a full pension – shortly before taking a job as secretary of his local golf club.

But if such facts can still engender rage, if the refusal of home secretaries and police authorities to say, yes, there was a terrible negligence, and we need to say sorry to all those who lost loved ones, can only be seen as shockingly insensitive cruelties, there is also a more personal angst for anyone who happened to be there.

If you knew it was going to happen, how could you simply take the advice of the policewoman and walk to the other side of the ground, where the Nottingham Forest fans had not been herded into dangerously overcrowded places, then walk into the press box and sit next to a colleague and point to the Leppings Lane end and say, "People are going to die over there"?

No, you were as powerless as so many of the leaderless policemen and the dedicated ambulance drivers who, before it was too late, were denied access to the football pitch that had become a killing field.

But maybe you could have screamed to the heavens against this horror created by insufficient care and professionalism.

Instead, you tried to do your job as a reporter. You went down on to the field and saw the pathetic attempts to make stretchers of advertising hoardings. You said to yourself that you could indeed do what was urged upon you by one tear-stained man... "tell the world what really happened... everyone who has died here deserves that".


nunya said...

What a tragedy, I'm sorry. I don't remember the story, but I didn't really take an interest in world news at that time in my life.

Kel said...

It was huge here, Nunya. It was our greatest ever loss of life at a sporting event. I watched the live coverage of the service from Anfield this afternoon.

It was very moving.

There is still a lot of anger in Liverpool over the fact that no blame has ever been assigned for this tragedy. The police herded people into an overcrowded area and then the papers accused the victims of actions which led to their own deaths.

The Sun newspaper - which led the charges - is still not sold in Liverpool to this day.

And, when you remember that this tragedy was twenty years ago, then you begin to get some indication of the level of insult which was felt.