The report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel shows how Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium was selected as a semi-final venue despite having no valid safety certificate.
It also provides an insight into how the FA failed to identify warnings from
Evidence is also offered to show how an appeal on behalf of
After Sheffield Wednesday apologised for their role in the deaths of the 96 Liverpool supporters, Bernstein finally followed suit yesterday. An earlier statement from the FA was roundly criticised when it did not include an apology, prompting further anger on Merseyside.
Bernstein said: “We are deeply sorry this tragedy occurred at a venue the FA selected. This fixture was played in the FA’s own competition, and on behalf of the Football Association I offer a full and unreserved apology and express sincere condolences to all of the families of those who lost their lives and to everyone connected to the City of Liverpool and Liverpool Football Club.
“For 23 years the families have suffered unbearable pain and we have profound sympathy for them. I would like to commend the professional work of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, while also recognising the tireless commitment shown by so many people in maintaining the fight for justice, particularly the family support groups.”
“The FA has co-operated fully with the Independent Panel throughout this process and has released all documentation in line with their requests. I would also like to make clear that we will of course fully co-operate with any further inquiry.
Margaret Aspinall, of the Hillsborough family support group, said: “We welcome the apology but the one thing that makes me angry is that we have had to wait for this report to come out before we get all the apologies that should have been made a long time ago.”
Many campaigners recall former FA chief executive Graham Kelly making the initial misleading public statement on the cause of the tragedy a matter of minutes after the fateful semi-final was abandoned.
Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield had misled Kelly by briefing him about a gate being forced open by Liverpool supporters. The panel’s report underlined the importance of those initial claims in the context of 23 years of lies that followed.
The report stated: “His untruthful allegation was broadcast internationally, establishing the immediate portrayal of the unfolding disaster as a further example of soccer-related crowd violence.”
It is made clear throughout the report the FA was acting upon misinformation provided by senior South Yorkshire Police offers.
The FA was also misguided about the adequacy of the stadium as a semi-final venue by Sheffield Wednesday and the police, but there is evidence supporters had written directly to them to complain about the state of terraces in 1981 and 1988.
The FA Cup semi-finals of 1981 and 1987 were delayed because of crowd congestion, and the report references letters from both Spurs and Liverpool supporters dated in 1981 and 1988 recording their experiences of crushing in the Leppings Lane End. Neither fan received a reply.
Liverpool secretary Robinson called the FA’s competitions secretary Steve Clark prior to the semi-final venue being selected insisting his club receive a higher allocation of tickets and the larger terrace in 1989.
Although Kelly was informed of this conversation, the report states he did not relay it to Jack Wiseman, the chairman of the match and grounds committee, who decided on the venues. Liverpool’s request for the Spion Kop End of Hillsborough was then rejected on the advice of South Yorkshire Police.
In 1989, the FA decided to select Hillsborough as the semi-final venue for a third consecutive year, despite it not possessing a valid safety certificate. The Hillsborough Independent Panel makes it clear the FA was deferring to the judgment of the Sheffield Wednesday club and South Yorkshire police.