WELL RED INDEPENDENT LIVERPOOL SUPPORTERS’ MAGAZINE
Issue 16: Oct/Nov 2012 £2.70
“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes”
THEM WHINGING SCOUSERS WERE RIGHT
THE HILLSBOROUGH FAMILIES HAVE FINALLY HAD THE TRUTH – NOW IT’S TIME THEY GOT JUSTICE
F all the words spoken, written and read; all the images published and broadcast since that landmark moment, it was one simple human expression that summed up the significance of September 12, 2012: the smile of Margaret Aspinall. The chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group lost her son, James, at Hillsborough – an 18-year-old Liverpool fan attending his first away match. Her name has become sewn into the conscience of Liverpool, along with the other leading campaigners for justice – Anne Williams, Trevor Hicks, Sheila Coleman and the rest. We have seen Margaret Aspinall’s face etched with determination, heard her speeches, read her words. She is regular described in the media as stoic: a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining. On that historic day, the mask slipped. She smiled, she hugged Andy Burnham, the Evertonian MP who has done so much to help the families reach this point. It was relief, an outpouring of emotion – victory and vindication in the battle for the truth. It was a remarkable moment. The families are a group of normal people who lost loved ones at a football match. Those fans died through no fault of their own and it took 23 years, four months and 28 days for the establishment to admit it and say sorry. They’re not people looking for their 15 minutes of fame, as Doug Fraser, a solicitor who represented families of Hillsborough victims at the inquests and
Margaret Aspinall (right) and Jenni HIcks at Anfield for the Manchester United game
No.16 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2012
Editor Gareth Roberts @robbohuyton Email editor@ wellredmag.co.uk Website wellredmag.co.uk
who is now Liverpool Deputy Coroner, so crassly remarked. They’re simply people who wanted the truth about how their family members died that day and were prepared to fight for it. They were let down by the authorities before, during and after the ill-fated FA Cup semi-final in 1989 and they’ve been let down by them every day since. Politicians from all parties, the legal process, police, the ambulance service, local and central government, the media, the football authorities, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club…society – all failed the families again and again. As time ticked on towards a quarter of a century since the disaster, it would have been easy to give in; to admit defeat to some of the country’s finest legal minds and the army of civil servants that have constantly barred the way. But if that’s what the establishment thought would happen, they picked the wrong city. Liverpool has been vilified in every possible way over Hillsborough. People like Kelvin MacKenzie, Brian Clough, Boris Johnson, Simon Heffer, Jeremy Hunt, Alan Davies and many more have helped to perpetuate the myth that Liverpool fans were at fault that day and that everything that
has come since is just typical of a grief-wallowing, mawkish ‘self-pity’ city. And what’s staggering is that even in the face of evidence that completely and utterly exonerates Liverpool fans, still those at the centre of the conspiracy to smear our name continue to trot out the company line. West Yorkshire Chief Constable Norman Bettison was part of the South Yorkshire force’s ‘liaison unit’ on Hillsborough. They painted the police in the best possible light – and the fans in the worst. Hooliganism and an ‘unco-operative crowd’ were central to his propaganda 23 years ago. This was also the policeman who considered charging Lord Justice Taylor with perverting the course of justice. That he once held the position of Chief Constable of Merseyside baffles to this day. In a cack-handed attempt at contrition, he said following the publication of the Independent Panel’s report: “Fans’ behaviour, to the extent that it was relevant at all, made the job of the police, in the crush outside Leppings Lane turnstiles, harder than it needed to be. But it didn’t cause the disaster any more than the sunny day that encouraged people to linger outside the stadium as kick off approached.”
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THEM WHINGING SCOUSERS WERE RIGHT
A full apology followed but for continuing to blacken the name of Liverpool fans he should never work again. Liverpool is not a self-pity city. It’s a city that believes in what’s right and is prepared to fight tooth and nail for it. Everton’s brilliant tribute to the 96 before their game against Newcastle showed what the city is really all about (spookily, He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother was the last single James Aspinall bought his mother. Everton didn’t know). The Hillsborough families have suffered unimaginable horrors – a “double injustice” as David Cameron called it. But it’s more than that. They lost a loved one to an avoidable crime, they’ve been denied the truth and justice and then watched as a lie manifested itself into the national conscience. The narrative told them that not only had their relative died, it had been their fault and they’d contributed to the death of others. A family member’s name was tarnished, a city’s name was tarnished and Liverpool Football Club’s name was tarnished. Anyone who speaks with a Scouse 4
accent or supports Liverpool will have experienced the slurs that have accompanied what Maria Eagle MP called a black propaganda campaign. Be it the vile songs from bigots – “The Sun was right, you killed your own fans” – or the squints of suspicion when Hillsborough is discussed, we’ve all had the smallest insight into a fraction of the hurt that the families have been forced to endure. And all this when the Liverpool supporters at Hillsborough were in fact the heroes of the hour, reacting the best they could to save their fellow fans in the face of gross incompetence from the emergency services. The panel found 164 police statements were altered — 116 of them to remove or alter “unfavourable” comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster. Forty-nine ambulance staff statements were also changed. Michael Mansfield QC, the barrister acting on behalf of the families, called it the biggest cover up in legal history and he believes at least six individuals could be prosecuted for gross negligence
manslaughter. Charles Falconer QC, representing the Hillsborough Family Support Group, has called on the director of public prosecutions to investigate charging Sheffield Wednesday, as well as South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield City Council and the Football Association, with corporate manslaughter. South Yorkshire Police still employs 195 officers who were on duty at the ground on the day of the tragedy. Now the cover-up has been laid bare it’s very hard not to turn around and offer the rest of the world two fingers. “Them whinging Scousers were right,” said Margaret Aspinall. But that shouldn’t deflect from the seismic moment that the real truth was laid bare to the rest of the nation; the rest of the world. That 41 of the 96 could have been saved was truly shocking. And it’s that grim fact, coupled with the thought of a policeman sampling blood from a 10-year-old’s dead body for traces of alcohol, that focuses the mind. As groundbreaking as the 12th was,
THEM WHINGING SCOUSERS WERE RIGHT
right support. Now though, those eyes amended police statements that it wasn’t cause for celebration, more are open. That support is there and were exposed by the Hillsborough satisfaction for the city and the fans our thoughts should now rest with the Independent Panel. tinged with sadness for the families families. The MP for Garston and Halewood and anger at the incompetence, wilful As Margaret Aspinall said: “We are said: “When the Prime Minister stood up ignorance and deviousness that has still, and always will be, the losers at in parliament and detailed the findings denied these heroic people the truth Hillsborough. I can speak for James. [of the Independent Panel], my reaction they craved for so long. He did nothing wrong that day. He was was different to most people in there. Jane Merrick reported in the in the ground by 1.20pm. He was just “There were gasps and people were Independent on Sunday that a PC on shocked. I sat there counting off thinking 18 and he was going to his first away duty told the 1997 Lord Justice Stuartgame. He came home to me five days to myself ‘we knew that, we knew that’.” Smith review that “wholesale changes” later in a coffin. Yet it has also been uncovered that were made to his and others’ statements “There will be no closure for us. I will Straw later briefed Stuart-Smith that to “sanitise and protect themselves”. never close my mind on my child. We there was no basis for a new inquiry. It He says he was taken to a pub by him live with it every day. But I hope it will and fellow officers and told: “It’s back to was a box-ticking exercise; lip service bring closure for the rest of the city. intended to pacify the familes that was the wall, boys. We’ve all got to say the They can move on because they’ve got doomed to failure from the start. same thing. Unless we all get together the truth.” It’s difficult to swallow that the and straighten it out, there are heads The indications are that justice will ‘revelations’ that have so stunned the going to roll”. now follow truth. It would be hard for nation could have out there 15 years Frost quit the force in anger after the anything else to happen, such is the earlier when many more relatives of the cover up. momentum now. victims were alive. Maria Eagle also had conclusive proof It’s not just Liverpool fighting the fight It’s hard to fathom, too, how two in 1998 of the systematic police coverafter the 12th – it never should have judge-led inquiries, an inquest, police up. been. Now, the eyes of the world are investigations, a private prosecution, South Yorkshire Police were forced watching. Professor Phil Scraton’s book, by then Home Secretary Jack Straw And when justice arrives, perhaps Hillsborough: The Truth, and Jimmy to deposit statements in the House we’ll see that smile of Margaret McGovern’s 1996 documentary failed to of Commons library. The 12 boxes of Aspinall’s again. open the necessary eyes and garner the previously unseen material contained 5
SORRY IS NOT THE HARDEST WORD TO SAY I T’S always the same. You wait 23 years for an apology. Then loads of them turn up at once. In other circumstances that might well be a cause for frustration, perhaps even fury. But this was different. This was unchartered territory. Instead, the overriding feelings were ones of incredulity, righteousness, and immense satisfaction. The findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel were of such clarity, such magnitude, that the urge to apologise to the families of the victims and, by extension, to the city of Liverpool as a whole, spread like wildfire. That such an urge had been absent for so long only made it more remarkable. David Cameron set the ball rolling. A Tory Prime Minister expressing his regret at the actions of an establishment that, to all intents and purposes, he was a product of. And the possible collusion of a government he holds as a shining beacon of modern conservative ‘values.’ And doing so with what appeared to be genuine sincerity and commitment. All this from a man who, less than a year earlier had compared the campaign for justice to ‘a blind man in a dark room, looking for a black cat that isn’t there.’ From that moment, we knew that we were witnessing something truly momentous. Ed Miliband quickly followed suit, reminding us that his party too had
BY NEIL SCOTT
singularly failed to support the Hillsborough families. Jack Straw, who, when Home Secretary, judged there was insufficient evidence to sanction a fresh inquest, shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The floodgates opened. And the authorities who had long been complicit in negligence, incompetence and blame shifting were queuing up to get in on the act, as if desperate to offload vast reservoirs of empathy and compassion, reservoirs which have lain untroubled for 23 years and now, we were expected to believe, were overflowing with earnest and heart-felt remorse. Sheffield Wednesday FC, whose ground was woefully ill-suited to stage such an event, who failed to ensure a valid safety certificate was in place (for 10 years) and whose primary concern, according to the Hillsborough Panel, had been “to limit costs.” Sorry. The current Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton, who, in fairness, made no attempt to diminish the welldocumented failings of those whose actions had now unequivocally been shown to have led to the disaster. Sorry. Boris Johnson. Loveable, bumbling, victim-blaming gobshite Boris. Sorry. Dominic Mohan, editor of The Sun, bravely seeking to bolt the stable door 23 years after the horse gleefully dropped its muck all over
the people of Liverpool. Sorry. Kelvin MacKenzie. Vermin. ‘Sorry.’ The FA, whose culpability for the catastrophe has long been underplayed, be it in neglecting prior concerns as to the suitability of Hillsborough, ignoring crowd safety issues at previous semi-finals, or failing to insist that the safety certificate was in place. And who pressured Liverpool into making a decision on replaying the match or face expulsion from the competition within days of the disaster. Sorry (“…that the tragedy occurred at a venue the FA selected.”). Irvine Patnick, whose eagerness to believe the most vicious lies without a shred of evidence (and who made damn sure the media were fully aware of them) went a long way towards establishing the narrative of drunken corpse-robbing, policebeating hooligans that was to run for more than two decades. Sorry. Norman Bettison, who appears hellbent on instigating a cover-up to hide his involvement in the original cover-up, issued a statement reeking of arrogance and self-preservation, and which refuted his need to apologise. Then he apologised for it. What is it they say about sorry being the hardest word? Not any more. Not when we’ve seen those pricked by a guilty conscience or terrified that their collusion may be exposed practically falling over each other to profoundly, solemnly, sincerely, profusely declare their deepest contrition. 23 years. What kept you? After all, it’s not as if this was all a big surprise. Most
of the evidence has been in the public domain since the interim Taylor Report was issued, just four months after that dark April afternoon. There was no grey area, no obfuscation. Taylor spelled it out, without caveats or provisos: “The main reason for the Disaster was a failure of police control.” Where were the apologies then? When they might have actually counted for something? Hillsborough Panel member, Phil Scraton, has written a number of books outlining the causes. He highlighted the systemic police campaign to discredit the Liverpool supporters. He pointed out that all the victims, children included, had been tested for alcohol consumption. He revealed that scores of statements which threatened to portray a negative picture of police competence had been doctored. He spoke passionately of “institutional complacency and gross negligence by those in positions of power ….and deceitful allegations that attempt to shift responsibility on to the victims and their families.” So why have the families been running into judicial brick walls for 23 long, painful years? I guess it’s just a lot easier to hide behind collective apologies after the fact. Saves all that messy ‘liability’ business. And if the reputation of an entire city is dragged through the gutter in the process, that’s a small price to pay to maintain the Establishment equilibrium. At this point, what does an apology mean anyway? Beyond an attempt to salve individual guilt? And possibly try to head off any further repercussions down the line? Although anything that helps to give the families comfort, and smoothes their path to a form of justice they are able to accept, is to be welcomed, ultimately it’s not apologies that we want. It’s proper accountability. It’s a fresh inquest. It’s explanations. We know the police were negligent, that the FA and Sheffield Wednesday were complicit and that the media were happy to spread misinformation. The Independent Report spells this out – logically, clinically, devastatingly. Thanks to the Panel everyone now knows what
WHO’S SORRY NOW? Channel 4’s Alex Thomson doorsteps Kelvin MacKenzie at his home
happened. We need to understand why. Who gave the orders? Who was at the heart of the cover-up? How high did it go? Because this matters. Don’t let people tell you it doesn’t. Watergate brought down a President yet ultimately it stemmed from little more than a bungled break-in at a Washington hotel. At Hillsborough, 96 people lost their lives. No-one in authority lost so much as a day’s pay. Is that the kind of society you want to be a part of? The Truth is now out there. Those who continue to ignore it or actively choose to believe their own self-concocted vitriol have been thoroughly discredited. They’ll probably always be around, twisted by hatred, compelled by tribal loyalty, nourished by ignorance. But now they are the ones who are out of step, marginalised, derided. If the apologies have done anything they have established a new consensus and, for once, it’s on our side. The reaction within the city brought back memories of a Liverpool I used to know. Not the self-pity city of media legend. Not the benefit claiming, militant bogey-man of the right-wing press. Not the Liverpool of
brand optimisation, soundbites and PR-enhancing documentaries. This was a city defiant, proud and, above all, united. A city that refused to give in when told again and again that this was a fight it couldn’t possibly win. And those who have been at the forefront of the fight will always have our heart-felt thanks. To the lengthy roll-call of glorious names in our club’s history, to Shankly, Liddell, Paisley, Dalglish, Hunt, Hughes, Rush, Barnes, Gerrard, we must now add the likes of Aspinall, Williams, Hicks, Coleman, Rotherham and Burnham. Their tenacity, commitment and unswerving determination to uncover the truth warrant the highest possible recognition. The bereaved will never get over the pain of their loss. All we can hope is that the wheels are now firmly set in motion and that they finally receive the answers, the comfort, and the justice for which they have pleaded for so many years. They deserve so much more than apologies. @66zimbo 7xx
23 YEARS... BUT IT STILL FEELS LIKE YESTERDAY
DON’T class myself as a survivor of Hillsborough. During the intervening years between the disaster and the emergence on 12th September 2012 of the real Truth as revealed by the report of the Independent Panel, and the vindication it brought, I’ve often wondered how much I was personally affected by Hillsborough. I’ve heard survivors try to describe their torment as one per cent of what the families might have suffered. However, I think it’s impossible to put a number against such grief; to make any kind of comparison with their pain. Theirs was an unfathomable loss compounded by the lies, deceit and downright cowardice that exists in the gross police and establishment cover up and resultant 23 long years of injustice. I’ve carried on after Hillsborough; had a normal happy, rewarding life with just the occasional flashback, normally around the time of the anniversary, or more recently in the gathering momentum of the parliamentary quest to challenge those spiteful, damaging lies. Like many Liverpool supporters who were present on that fateful day, my role from now on is the same as it has been since April 1989 – to blend into the background, but walk steadfastly behind the families on their journey towards Justice. I’ve forgotten a hell of a lot since 1989. Countless football matches, landmark birthdays; a few crackpot 8
BY MIKE NEVIN
girlfriends, costly holidays, weekends away, people I’ve befriended and lost touch with, even some precious days when my kids were small – all the details, good and bad, claimed by my sieve-like grey matter. But the 15th April 1989 is a day graphically and forever etched on my memory; as the saying goes, just like it was yesterday. I can’t remember what I wore for the match last Saturday, but I do recall the denim shirt, sloppy jeans and Liverpool pin-badge I wore at Hillsborough. I’ve no idea what I had for lunch the other day, but I vividly remember the chicken sandwich and pork pie my mum packed for me on that sunny morning 23 years ago. I can still taste the Bells whisky I slugged from two miniatures I drank to get me in the mood for the game. I’d been to Hillsborough every year since a League Cup tie there in January 1984, when I first stood on the Leppings Lane terrace. With Sheffield Wednesday’s promotion we were back for League games in 1985 and 1986, my abiding memory being an awful view and a claustrophobic but fairly common, terrace experience before I decided my standing days were a thing of the past. For the 1988 semi-final against Forest I watched us progress to Wembley from the West Stand above the Leppings Lane. In the weeks before Hillsborough, I’d travelled with my mates to Norwich and Millwall as Liverpool clawed their way back into the title
race. For the upcoming FA Cup semifinal our Kemlyn Road season tickets had qualified us for three tickets, two in the North Stand along the touchline at our end, and one for the Leppings Lane. Unusually, my dad couldn’t go – he had a weekend work meeting in Manchester – so our spare ticket was claimed by my younger sister Gill’s best friend, Vicky. I was happy to stand and let the girls sit together but Vicky was insistent she wanted to go behind the goal and enjoy the atmosphere. To this day I hugely regret not being more forceful and putting her at risk by allowing her to take that standing ticket. Through sheer luck Vicky survived Hillsborough; safe and uninjured although she has never revealed what she saw or how she escaped the crush in pen 3. In the years that followed we lost touch, until we met again at a wedding a little while ago. Although it was the only thing on my mind all evening, we didn’t mention Hillsborough. We had travelled with my Dad’s best friend and despite the roadworks on the M62 arrived in good time. We got into the ground about 2.30, before the dangerous build-up of fans before kick-off outside the turnstiles and arranged to meet the others outside a nearby newsagent after the game. My sister, Gill and I took our seats and the first thing I noticed was just how few supporters were in the side pens behind the goal, with no more than a hundred or so spectators scattered to left and right of the
packed central areas. I wondered if Liverpool had failed to sell out - ticket prices were on the rise and semifinals had become run-of-the-mill occasions for such an all-conquering team. With an increasing din from the vast Kop End where the Forest fans were stationed, I worried that the opposition vocal support might spur them on to an unlikely victory. Already, there was an unusual quiet at the Liverpool end. As the game began the side pens at the Leppings Lane end remained relatively empty. It just seemed weird for such a big game. In the central pens, a strange inflatable that had been bounced around before the start had disappeared. A few supporters were being hauled into the West Stand above, but I’d seen this before at Hillsborough and nothing seemed amiss. However, in the minutes that followed it was quickly apparent something was wrong as the numbers being helped upwards increased rapidly and people
desperately began scaling the front fences to find sanctuary on the pitch. It was clear some were hurt and supporters lay prostrate on the pitch perimeter behind the goal. The game was stopped and the players left the field. The half an hour or so that followed is now a sundrenched, traumatic blur. I’m not sure when fans started ripping down advertising hoardings to stretcher the injured away from a football pitch that by now resembled a battlefield strewn with casualties. I told my sister to stay in her seat and wandered down to the front. Police were trying to prevent us getting on the pitch and Forest fans were chanting something that now escapes me but showed they misunderstood the situation. Near the front of the North Stand, I bumped into my mate from down our road, and we watched together in horror as the faces of the stricken were covered. I’m still haunted by my words “Dave, they’re dead aren’t they?” Dave couldn’t take it in and
replied, “I think they’ve just fainted. They’re trying to keep the sun off their faces.” The pitch was almost completely covered with people at one end of the ground, but the police line and barking Alsatians remained in position on the half-way line. Sirens wailed outside amid the chaos. At that point, my memory briefly shuts down. I had to go back and get my sister. I didn’t know what to do. I was worried about Vicky, and soon the game had been abandoned. I think we left the ground about half past four to see if we could find the others. On the way out, by remarkable coincidence I bumped into every one of the 6 or 7 lads with whom I went to away games over the years. We hugged without saying much and went our separate ways in a daze. We knew some people had lost their lives but at this moment words failed us. Thank God, Gill’s friend Vicky was waiting for us, with my dad’s mate when we arrived back at the 9
THE TRUTH newsagent. We exchanged blank looks and made our way back to the car; still the sirens pierced the air and there seemed to be some disorder as disgruntled Forest fans ran amok in the streets. I had to make sure my mum and dad knew we were safe. The people of Sheffield took us and hundreds of other inside their homes and we were able to use a phone. We were silent on the way home, the awful toll of the day becoming ever worse as we listened to Radio Two’s radio coverage. I bit my lip until Peter Jones’ commentary broke me. “At this moment stewards are gathering up the personal belongings of the spectators, and there are red and white scarves of Liverpool, and red and white bobble hats of Liverpool, and red and white rosettes of Liverpool, and nothing else. And the sun shines now.” I cried my eyes out and reached across the back seat to comfort and to be comforted by Gill and Vicky. At home, my mum and dad were waiting on the drive. They embraced us at a time when so many families dreamed of doing the same to their loved ones but never would. Later that evening I stared blankly at a TV screen as we watched Match of the Day report the full enormity of the heartbreak. It was a living nightmare, and I can’t begin to imagine the pain and suffering of those directly involved, let alone those who were dealing with such a feeling of panic or loss. I went to Anfield on the Tuesday and left my favourite white Liverpool bobble hat on the Kop. I watched my friends lay flowers, but inwardly thought, “What’s the point?” Nothing would bring back those who had perished. There was a sense of pride at the way Liverpool FC had opened it doors and our fans had opened their hearts, but inside I just felt numb. I felt full of remorse, regret and outright guilt that something as pointless as football - that was and still remains one of my great passions in life - had abruptly ended the lives of so many innocents. I was almost oblivious to The Sun’s reporting of the disaster. Instinct and decency told me it was all lies. Anger in this respect came only in later years as pathetic slander was perpetuated by public and governmental refusal to accept and
act properly on the findings of the Taylor Report. If the 12th September 2012 delivered The Truth to the outside world, it only confirmed what we had known for two decades and more. On the Saturday after Hillsborough, I stood outside a ground filled to capacity, on Anfield Road as a two-minute tribute to the dead was observed at six minutes past three. A mournful silence was pierced only by the patter of raindrops cascading from grim skies onto thousands of bowed heads. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps none of us should have been anywhere near a football match in the immediate aftermath of Hillsborough. But with a cast of thousands there I was at Goodison Park, Old Trafford, Wembley and Anfield just weeks after the tragedy. The emotions were still raw, and maybe it was all part of the healing for everyone affected, but it still felt wrong. The ensuing 23 years have
“There remains an element of guilt that I’ve been able to live my life despite being at Hillsborough.” passed by in the blink of an eye. I’ve attended some but not all of the memorials at Anfield. At times I’ve become annoyed at the chanting that has accompanied what I’ve felt should be a respectful service, the obvious exception being the heartfelt pleas to Andy Burnham at the 20th anniversary that triggered the recent findings. I’ve often felt uncomfortable and bristled at unthinking chants of “Stand Up for The 96” that have been heard at the match in recent years. I don’t know why, but at times I’ve found it disrespectful when the families have continued their fight for truth and justice with such dignity. Maybe that’s just me – there’s no right or wrong in this. I’ve marvelled but not quite understood the way the bereaved families have turned inwards and drawn support from the football club and not directed their anger and grief towards a game which accounted for their lost sons, fathers and daughters. With each passing year the sadness remains the same
on the anniversary of 15th April 1989. I don’t think a year has gone by without tears. There remains an element of guilt that I’ve been able to live my life despite being at Hillsborough. Becoming a parent and watching my children grow up has only defined the sense of loss that I imagine for those who lost their kids in such harrowing circumstances. I have only the utmost respect for people like Anne Williams, Margaret Aspinall, Trevor Hicks, John Glover and Phil Hammond. Above all, they have my sympathy. If they’ve needed support I’m proud that we’ve been able to provide it in whatever fashion has been appropriate, however small. I’m immensely proud to be a Liverpool supporter; proud of our anthems, proud of the trophies won, proud of the great players I’ve watched in a red shirt, but today, most of all I’m proud of the families of The 96. This has very little to do with football and Liverpool FC. When the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel were revealed, precipitating a “full and profound” apology from the Prime Minister, I cried fresh tears. When I heard that Kelvin Mackenzie had been forced into an admittedly lame half-apology, my eyes filled up again. I asked myself why I was crying. As far as I can be sure, my tears were tears of relief, least of all for me and my relatively trivial recollection, but for the families and those who really suffered. But still there is also sadness, as there will be forever; for the devastating human tragedy that happened in Sheffield, Of course, this sadness is felt anew with the revelation that nearly half those who died might have been saved. My overriding sentiment as we now look forward is one of hope; hope that the words spoken by David Cameron in Parliament and litany of tardy apologies in the wake of the Truth have legitimised and strengthened the continuing pursuit of meaningful Justice. I want Justice for The 96. Not for Justice’s sake or for vindictive reasons, rather that Justice will finally bring a semblance of peace to those lost their loved ones and to all who suffered at Hillsborough. @michaeltnevin
“The families have long believed that some of the authorities attempted to create a completely unjust account of events that sought to blame the fans for what happened. Mr Speaker, the families were right.” – David Cameron, 12.09.12
THE PRIME MINISTER’S HISTORIC SPEECH IN FULL
ODAY the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Reverend James Jones, is publishing the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel. The disaster at the Hillsborough football stadium on 15th April 1989 was one of the greatest peacetime tragedies of the last century. Ninety six people died as a result of a crush in the Leppings Lane Terrace at the FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. There was a public inquiry at the time by Lord Justice Taylor which found – and I quote – that the main cause of the disaster was “a failure of police control.” But the inquiry didn’t have access to all the documents that have since become available. It didn’t properly examine the response of the emergency services; it was followed by a deeply controversial inquest;
and by a media version of events that sought to blame the fans. As a result, the families have not heard the truth and have not found justice. That is why the previous government – and in particular – the Rt Hon Member for Leigh was right to set up this Panel. And it is why this government insisted that no stone should be left unturned and that all papers should be made available to the Bishop of Liverpool and his team. Mr Speaker, in total over 450,000 pages of evidence have been reviewed. It was right that the families should see the report first. As a result the government has only had a very limited amount of time to study the evidence so far. But it is already very clear that many of the report’s findings are deeply distressing. There are three areas in particular: the failure of the authorities to help
protect people, the attempt to blame the fans, and the doubt cast on the original coroner’s inquest. Let me take each in turn. FAILURE OF THE AUTHORITIES First, there is new evidence about how the authorities failed. There is a trail of new documents which show the extent to which the safety of the crowd at Hillsborough was “compromised at every level.” The ground failed to meet minimum standards and the “deficiencies were well known”. The turnstiles were inadequate. The ground capacity had been significantly over-calculated. The crush barriers failed to meet safety standards. There had been a crush at exactly the same match the year before. And today’s report shows clearly that lessons had not been learnt. The report backs up again the key finding of the Taylor Report on police failure. But it goes further 11
THE TRUTH findings about particular actions by revealing for the first time the taken by the police and coroner shortcomings of the ambulance and while investigating the deaths. There emergency services response. is new evidence which shows that The major incident plan was not police officers carried out police fully implemented. national computer checks on those Rescue attempts were held who had died in an attempt – and I back by failures of leadership and quote from the report - “to impugn co-ordination. the reputations of the deceased.” And, significantly, new documents The Coroner took blood alcohol today show there was a delay from levels from all of the deceased the emergency services when people including children. were being crushed and killed. The Panel finds no rationale ATTEMPT TO BLAME THE FANS whatsoever for what it regards as an Second, the families have long “exceptional” decision. believed that some of the authorities The report states clearly that the attempted to create a completely attempt of the inquest to draw a unjust account of events that link between blood alcohol and late sought to blame the fans for what arrival was “fundamentally flawed”. happened. And that alcohol consumption was Mr Speaker, the families were right. “unremarkable and not exceptional The evidence in today’s report for a social or leisure occasion”. includes briefings to the media and Mr Speaker, over all these years attempts by the Police to change the record of events. On the media. Several CK newspapers reported false TNI A P allegations that fans were R: drunk and violent and stole LIA from the dead. The Sun’s report sensationalised these allegations under a banner headline “The Truth.” This was clearly wrong and caused huge offence, distress and hurt. News International has co-operated with the Panel and, for the first time, today’s report reveals that the source for these despicable untruths was a Sheffield news agency questions have been raised about reporting conversations the role of the government – with South Yorkshire Police and including whether it did enough to Irvine Patnick, the then MP for uncover the truth. Sheffield Hallam. It is certainly true that some of the The Report finds that this was part language in the government papers of police efforts – and I quote - “to published today was insensitive. develop and publicise a version of But having been through every events that focused on…allegations document – and every government of drunkenness, ticketlessness document including Cabinet Minutes and violence.” will be published – the Panel found In terms of changing the record of no evidence of any government events, we already know that police trying to conceal the truth. reports were significantly altered but At the time of the Taylor Report the full extent was not drawn to Lord the then Prime Minister was briefed Justice Taylor’s attention. by her private secretary that the Today’s Report finds that 164 defensive and – I quote - “close statements were significantly to deceitful” behaviour of senior amended – and 116 explicitly South Yorkshire officers was removed negative comments about “depressingly familiar.” the policing operation – including its And it is clear that the then lack of leadership. government thought it right that The report also makes important the Chief Constable of South 12
Yorkshire should resign. But as the Rt Hon Member for Leigh has rightly highlighted, governments then and since have simply not done enough to challenge publicly the unjust and untrue narrative that sought to blame the fans. ORIGINAL CORONER’S INQUEST Third, and perhaps most significantly of all, the Bishop of Liverpool’s report presents new evidence which casts significant doubt over the adequacy of the original Inquest. The coroner – on the advice of pathologists – believed that victims suffered traumatic asphyxia leading to unconsciousness within seconds and death within a few minutes. As a result he asserted that beyond 3.15pm there were no actions that could have changed the fate of the victims and he limited the scope of the Inquest accordingly. But by analysing post mortem reports the Panel have found that 28 did not have obstruction of blood circulation and 31 had evidence of heart and lungs continuing to function after the crush. This means that individuals in those groups could have had potentially reversible asphyxia beyond 3.15pm in contrast to the findings of the coroner and a subsequent Judicial Review. And the Panel states clearly that “it is highly likely that what happened to those individuals after 3.15pm was significant” in determining whether they died. RESPONSE Mr Speaker, the conclusions of this report will be harrowing for many of the families affected. Anyone who has lost a child knows the pain never leaves you. But to read a report years afterwards that says – and I quote… …“a swifter, more appropriate, better focused and properly equipped response had the potential to save more lives” can only add to the pain It is for the Attorney General to decide whether to apply to the High Court to quash the original inquest and seek a new one. In this capacity he acts independently of government. And he will need to examine the evidence himself. But it is clear to me that
“A narrative about hooliganism on that day was created which led many in the country to accept that it was somehow a grey area. The report is black and white. The Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster.”
the new evidence in today’s report raises vital questions which must be examined. And the Attorney General has assured me that he will examine this new evidence immediately and reach a decision as fast as possible. But ultimately it is for the High Court to decide. It is also right that the House should have an opportunity to debate the issues raised in this report fully. My Rt Hon Friend the Home Secretary will be taking forward a debate in Government time. And this will happen when the House returns in October. APOLOGY Mr Speaker, I want to be very clear about the view the government takes about these findings and why after 23 years this matters so much, not just for the families but for Liverpool and for our country as a whole. Mr Speaker what happened that day – and since – was wrong. It was wrong that the responsible authorities knew Hillsborough did not meet minimum safety standards and yet still allowed the match to go ahead. It was wrong that the families have had to wait for so long – and fight so hard – just to get to the truth. And it was wrong that the police changed the records of what happened and tried to blame the fans. We ask the police to do difficult and often very dangerous things on our behalf.
And South Yorkshire Police is a very different organisation today from what it was then. But we do the many, many honourable police men and women a great disservice if we try to defend the indefensible. It was also wrong that neither Lord Justice Taylor nor the coroner looked properly at the response of the other emergency services. Again, these are dedicated people who do extraordinary things to serve the public. But the evidence from today’s report makes very difficult reading. Mr Speaker, with the weight of the new evidence in this Report, it is right for me today as Prime Minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have suffered over the past 23 years. Indeed, the new evidence that we are presented with today makes clear that these families have suffered a double injustice. The injustice of the appalling events – the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth. And the injustice of the denigration of the deceased – that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths. On behalf of the Government – and indeed our country – I am profoundly sorry for this double injustice that has been left uncorrected for so long. Mr Speaker, because of what I have described as the second
injustice – the false version of events – not enough people in this country understand what the people of Merseyside have been through. This appalling death toll of so many loved ones lost was compounded by an attempt to blame the victims. A narrative about hooliganism on that day was created which led many in the country to accept that it was somehow a grey area. Today’s report is black and white. The Liverpool fans “were not the cause of the disaster”. The Panel has quite simply found “no evidence” in support of allegations of “exceptional levels of drunkenness, ticketlessness or violence among Liverpool fans”,”no evidence that fans had conspired to arrive late at the stadium” and “no evidence that they stole from the dead and dying.” Mr Speaker, I’m sure the whole House will want to thank the Bishop of Liverpool and his Panel for all the work they have done. And I am sure that all sides will join with me in paying tribute to the incredible strength and dignity of the Hillsborough families and the community which has backed them in their long search for justice. While nothing can ever bring back those who have been lost with all the documents revealed and nothing held back the families, at last, have access to the truth. And I commend this Statement to the House. 13
NOW IS THE TIME TO STOP SICK CHANTS
OR too many Liverpool reputation of both clubs doesn’t BY JO GREENWAY fans and their families, deserve it’. there was life before April It is rare for this writer to find was quick to call for an end to chants 15, 1989 and life after herself in agreement with the on the terraces about this or any it – the date as firmly etched Manchester United manager and disaster, saying that ‘it’s obvious on their hearts as it is on the probably even rarer for the editor of these are chants that no-one wants memorial close to Anfield’s Well Red to print articles displaying to hear about any club’. Shankly Gates. such agreement. His comments received support Now the bereaved families, While this might be the only from a perhaps unlikely quarter as survivors, and all who have occasion that happens, it feels Alex Ferguson echoed them, adding supported them, are adjusting important to say it, especially in light that ‘we are two great clubs… the to another new reality – the of how little regard for their boss’s one created by comments a section the release of of the Old Trafford MORE THAN FOOTBALL: Sir Matt Busby, a former the Hillsborough crowd showed at the Independent Panel Liverpool captain, pictured with a photo of the Wigan game that Report, where the followed them. Busby Babes in 1984 truth is no longer How can there be hidden but clear and a truce if they won’t indisputable. even listen to him, After 23 years of the argument will go. lies, cover up and But if it isn’t in the obstruction, it could managers’ powers take some getting to stop chants about used to. the Hillsborough and While for many Munich disasters, of us, the steps then it surely lies that follow will take within ours. place in locations Chants directed at where we have little Liverpool fans about influence, as inquiries Hillsborough are part and inquests are of a wider problem reopened, criminal that affect many investigations and clubs: Manchester legal processes United, Tottenham resume, there is one Hotspur and Arsenal place where every fan have all been on can now play their the receiving end of part in helping to songs that stray far change things for the beyond the realms better: at the match. of ‘banter’ and Brendan Rodgers mock any attempts
to claim that there is such a thing as ‘terrace wit’. Remember that only a few years ago it was viewed as a good laugh to bellow abuse and throw bananas at black players – until fan outrage and a willingness to stand up to the offenders finally proved to those responsible that it wasn’t. Munich chants disgrace every person involved in them, more so if that club’s supporters have themselves experienced sickening chants. If we can agree that Hillsborough was a tragedy for every football fan, then so was Munich. The young players that died that night were similar ages to many of our own 96 who also, like them, were lost before they had a chance to achieve their potential. Dragging the disasters into an increasingly hostile rivalry also distracts from the truth of both clubs’ reactions at the time. Following Munich, Liverpool offered to loan Manchester United players so they could cover their remaining fixtures with so many players dead or injured. Ferguson was one of the first to contact Kenny Dalglish in the aftermath of Hillsborough to show his support, and Manchester United fans visited Anfield to pay their respects. The Panel’s report shows that a major miscalculation by South Yorkshire Police in the weeks leading up to Hillsborough was that instead of gearing up to deal with fans of all
MORE THAN FOOTBALL: Eric Cantona showed that UnitedLiverpool rivalries can be set aside when he took the stage with the HJC-backed Justice Tonight band in Lyon in June ages keen to cheer on their team, they set themselves to face an adult mob hell-bent on causing trouble. The evidence of earlier crushes was ignored in the Operational Order for the game, which focused on crowd control instead of crowd safety. This coloured their thinking on the day as the disaster unfolded and during the immediate aftermath. Compassion was so lacking that the bereaved had to identify their loved ones from Polaroid photos taken as they lay in body bags and were interviewed as aggressively as if they were suspects in a crime instead of grieving relatives. Such callousness sprang from what the police believed was a reasonable expectation of the behaviour of football fans. In contrast, in the Panel’s report, The Bishop of Liverpool (left) pays tribute to the dignity with which the families and survivors have behaved during their fight for justice and accountability. I believe we betray that strength and dignity if we react to the provocations of idiots with shouts of our own. Rivalry is so much part of football that it would be unrealistic to expect a beautiful friendship to develop between the Kop, the Stretford End and Chelsea’s Shed End. Yet this week has seen clubs across the country play ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and send messages
of support, from Everton’s display of shirts showing ‘Justice 96’ in their Liverpool One store window to Sunderland’s flags at half-mast during our game at the Stadium of Light, without any decrease in competitive edge. It should be possible to inspire a team to victory without chanting about subjects that deserve to remain above the fray. Many aspects of football’s culture have changed in 23 years, some lamented, some less so. Grounds have become safer and more welcoming, while fans have organised to establish fanzines, merchandise shops, websites, even unions. We expect – or demand at times – to have our say about how the game is run, even as we expect – and sigh over – demonstrations of how disregarded we still are, such as when the FA schedule games in London for Northern teams when all the trains are off. Some things will probably never change, but the atmosphere in the ground is fully within our control. There is no need to hurl abuse and disrespect opponents in order to prove ourselves the most committed. The Liverpool Way was always to let the football do the talking, it is time to make sure that tradition is revived off the pitch as well as on it. @tenminuteshate 15
TURN BACK TIME AND MOST FANS KNEW THE TRUTH
O the truth about Hillsborough has finally entered the national conscience. It’s a victory for the families that lost loved ones and a victory for Liverpool – the city, the club and its fans. It’s a victory for the MPs – Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram, Maria Eagle and the others that backed he fight. But it should also be hailed as a victory for ALL football supporters, along with a win for society and basic human decency. That’s a factor that has become increasingly lost in the past 23 years, when more and more it became Liverpool’s fight and Liverpool’s fight alone. Even now, as the extent of the cover up and smear campaign continues to leak out and become ever-more shocking, it’s a message that is overshadowed and lost on many. This never should have been a battle that relied on the brave determination of families of Liverpool supporters. But – despite varying degrees of support from supporters of other clubs all over world at different times (as discussed in Mike Hill’s piece elsewhere in this magazine) – it has often seemed that way. Many from outside Liverpool questioned the continued push for truth and justice. “Let it go,” was the unbearable, unfeeling cry. Others – despite the publicly available evidence provided by The Taylor Report of 1990 clearly stating 16
BY GARETH ROBERTS
the cause of the disaster as failure of police control – continued to point the finger at the fans that attended that FA Cup semi-final in April 1989. That ‘no smoke without fire’ viewpoint suited those that conspired to cover up the failing of the authorities just fine. Worse, a vile minority of fans continued to perpetuate myths, point score, chant and use the disaster as a way to mock and provoke. This has continued even now in the face of the overwhelming evidence provided by the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s (HIP) report. Thankfully, the one-eyed few will now be perceived nationally and internationally as they always have been on Merseyside: worthless. The cerebral majority has now had its eyes opened: this was a disaster that could have happened to any set of supporters; the problem was not what Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary Bernard Ingham called a “tanked up mob of Liverpool supporters”, the problem was a deep-rooted societal one – football fans (and the working class in general) were perceived as scum, a problem, and were treated as such. It was a political landscape that laid the foundations for the cover-up that has now been so belatedly exposed. In 1989, a much-wider support among football supporters for the victims of Hillsborough was evident than has been seen in recent years and perhaps one of the reasons
for that is as simple – ‘the game experience’ now is a world away from how it was then. Then, fans shared the same horrors – the crushes, the treatment from police, the dilapidated stadia; they lived it week to week. Despite the revisionism which now suggests otherwise, most matchgoing fans watched Hillsborough in horror – they knew that could have been them. Spurs fans certainly knew – they came perilously close eight years earlier when they too were crammed into the Leppings Lane, that time for a FA Cup semi-final with Wolves. Hillsborough wasn’t used as a semi-final venue again for five years after 38 Spurs fans were injured that year. The match ended with hundreds of fans sitting around the pitch after police opened a gate to alleviate congestion. By the time Liverpool fans entered the death trap, the ground was in an even worse state. Immediately after the disaster, an editorial in the long-standing national football fanzine When Saturday Comes read: “Fans are treated with the utmost disrespect. We are herded, cajoled, pushed, and corralled into cramped spaces, and expected to submit passively to every new indignity. “The implication is that “normal” people need to be protected from the football fan. But we are normal people.” For many supporters that have grown up post-Hillsborough and
post The Taylor Report, which recommended all top-division grounds become all-seater, it’s a reality that’s hard to imagine. Coppers still behave unreasonably towards (particularly away) fans without justification at times – there are tales from up and down the country every week reinforcing that view. And the FA still treat supporters as the lowest priority stakeholder. But it’s world away from the 80s, and perhaps that’s why The Truth has been difficult to take in for some. Back to ‘89. Dig deeper, and to the club-specific fanzines of the time and again Hillsborough-related empathy, sympathy and anger are evident in equal measure. Bradford City’s City Gent fanzine, the longest-running fanzine in the country, wrote of how their fans had been “kept outside until sufficient numbers built up and then herded through without any check as to who had tickets and who didn’t” at Luton. It added: “It would seem most grounds have the potential for tragedy.” QPR fanzine, A Kick Up The Rs, also wrote at length about Hillsborough in May 1989. “Fans put their lives in the hands of the authorities and paid the price,” Trevor Kingham of the QPR Loyal Supporters Association wrote. “They were not committing acts of hooliganism, just supporting their team. I’ll never forget the heroism of fans that fought to save their lives and fought to help others. It was evident for all to see the total lack of understanding displayed by the police. “How many times have we all been standing in an enclosure which we
think is full and the police pack more in? They poke you with sticks and make threats. “The fans were innocent victims of total mismanagement by the authorities. Let’s put the blame where it lies. Those caged-in fans were heroes.” The truth was known then – now it’s been reaffirmed from the very top of Government – and it was
only ever ignorance, bigotry and the passage of time that allowed the picture to become blurred in the football-fan mindset. What’s now heartening as the Hillsborough families push for justice following their vindication for their 23-year fight for the truth is that fans and football clubs have again, by in large, become united on the subject. Liverpool’s first game following the
release of the HIP report was at Sunderland. Flags flew at half-mast at The Stadium of Light, the ground’s big screens showed the message ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and Sunderland fans handed over a banner to unite the two sets of supporters. The first Premier League played on Merseyside was Everton v Newcastle. The Toffees reaffirmed their support with two mascots – one in Liverpool red, the other in Everton blue – leading out the teams. Up and down the country, clubs acknowledged the landmark moment while fans from Manchester United, Chelsea and other rivals have since contacted the Hillsborough Justice Campaign offering their admiration. As nice as it is, it begs the question: Where’ve you been? The second question is: How long will this good will last? The stain on Liverpool fans – and football supporters generally – has been cleared once and for all. David Cameron put it in the clearest terms: “Today’s report is black and white. The Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster.” Now it’s police officers, MPs and journalists such as the morally vacuous Kelvin Mackenzie, responsible for the spuriously-titled ‘The Truth’, that now face the pariah treatment. The boot is now firmly on the other foot. For that, and the revolution in stadia safety, fans should be forever grateful to the Hillsborough families and their determination to expose the truth of what will go down in history as the most shocking coverups in British history. 17
SO WHAT ABOUT JUSTICE FOR THE HEYSEL 39?
OW that the lies, the smears and cruel myths about the Hillsborough disaster have been exposed once and for all, those who clung to them out of warped tribalism have but one straw left to clutch. “What about justice for Heysel?”, they plead. “What about the truth of what happened there?” Actually, they might have a point, even if they raise it out of malice rather than consideration for the bereaved. The publication – and belated national acceptance – of the real truth about Hillsborough has been a source of great vindication for all who were affected by that tragedy. But questions undoubtedly remain about the Heysel Stadium disaster, in which 39 spectators – 32 from Italy, four from Belgium, two from France, one from Northern Ireland – were killed in a stampede before the 1985 European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus. Those bereaved and outraged by Hillsborough have fought to keep their campaign for justice alive and been entirely vindicated for doing so. By contrast, Heysel remains the tragedy that dares not speak its name. So let us talk about it. Let us state a few of the facts about whether justice was done. We all know that English football, collectively, was punished, with clubs excluded from Uefa competition. Liverpool immediately withdrew, in disgrace, from the next season’s Uefa Cup. Within hours the FA, under 18
A terrace shout or internet musing too often aired to score points. But what are the facts? We look back at a tragedy that for decades was a taboo subject
BY OLIVER KAY
pressure from the government, announced that no English club would play in the following season’s Uefa competition – and that, of course included Everton, denied a tilt at the European Cup, and Norwich City, denied a first-ever European campaign. Two days later Uefa announced an indefinite ban on English clubs. It ended up at five years, with Liverpool serving a sixth as punishment for their supporters’ behaviour at Heysel. This was not a knee-jerk reaction to a one-off night of mayhem. This – both the sanction and, it could be argued, the widespread loss of life – had been coming. Heysel was the disgraceful culmination of more than a decade of ugly incidents involving English supporters on their European travels: Tottenham Hotspur in Rotterdam in 1974 and 1983, Leeds United in Paris in 1975, Manchester United in St Etienne in 1977, the national team in Basle in 1981 and so on, until the spiral of moronic violence reached its tragic conclusion – logical in one sense, crazy in all others – in Brussels. As to whether individuals were brought to account – 27 arrests were made on suspicion of manslaughter and 26 men were charged. (These, incidentally, do not tend to be described as Liverpool supporters – in part because of claims at the time from John Smith, the club’s chairman, and two Merseyside councillors that National Front members from London had been
responsible. There are many sensitive issues here, but let us not pussyfoot over this one. As Tony Evans, football editor of The Times and author of Far Foreign Land, a brilliant book about his experiences following Liverpool at Heysel and all over Europe, put it: “It was a red herring. Hooligans from the far right would not have been welcome.”) The prosecutions stemmed from television camera footage of the charge – the third such charge in a matter of minutes – that led directly to the deaths of those 39 innocent spectators. There are dozens of points that are usually offered to explain the context, not least over ticketing, segregation and a crumbling stadium, but the context does not begin to excuse what happened. No amount of context ever could. Those stampedes might have been considered standard terrace fare at the time, a token act of territorialism and intimidation, but it led innocent fans to flee in terror. Some tried to climb a wall to escape. The wall crumbled. Thirtynine people were crushed to death. The world was appalled. Turin went into mourning. Liverpool and their supporters were left to live with what they know, 27 years later, to be an indelible stain. As for “justice”, an initial inquiry by Marina Coppieters, a leading Belgian judge, found after 18 months that the police and the authorities, in addition to Liverpool supporters, should face charges. Quite apart from the hooliganism, ticketing
arrangements and police strategy and responses were criticised. By this stage, English supporters were regarded across Europe as such animals that shock was expressed at how the authorities had played into their hands. There was bewilderment, too, at the choice of stadium. And where have you heard that before? Uefa chose a ground that had been built in the 1920s and condemned in the early 1980s for failing to meet modern safety standards, which were far from stringent. Evans recalls that the outer wall, made of cinder block, was decaying, that he was not required to show his ticket and that, long before the stampede, he saw a crash barrier in front of him crumble. Jacques Georges, the Uefa president at the time, and Hans Bangerter, his general secretary, were threatened with imprisonment but eventually given conditional discharges. Albert Roosens, the former secretary-general of the Belgian Football Union (BFU), was given a six-month suspended prison sentence for “regrettable negligence” with regard to ticketing
arrangements. So was gendarme captain Johan Mahieu, who was in charge of the policing the stands at Heysel. “He made fundamental errors,” Pierre Verlynde, the judge, said. “He was far too passive. I find his negligence extraordinary.” In 1989, after a five-month trial in Brussels, 14 of the 26 Liverpool supporters who stood trial were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and given a three-year prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and each ended up serving about a year in total in behind bars. The remaining ten defendants were acquitted of manslaughter, but some had their £2,000 bail money confiscated, having been absent for part of the trial. And civil damages estimated at more than £5million were provisionally awarded to families of the Heysel victims against the convicted fans and the BFU. But you never hear of this because the tragedy is taboo. It was only brought into the open when Liverpool and Juventus were drawn together in the Champions League quarterfinal in 2005, at which point the Merseyside club, after consultation
with their Italian counterparts, announced it would be a game of “friendship”. Before the first leg at Anfield, Liverpool supporters held up a mosaic to form the word “amicizia”. Some of the visiting Juventus fans applauded. Most, it seemed, turned their backs in disgust. And while the rejection of the olive branch met with a little consternation on Merseyside, Liverpool’s supporters know all too well about the type of apology that comes too late, brought by events, to sound truly sincere. Heysel is an unspeakably awkward subject for Liverpool – perhaps more, perhaps less, for the anguish the club and the city endured four years later at Hillsborough. It is a black mark and it will be there forever. Supporters of rival teams chant “Murderers” and the Liverpool fans have little response. On one infamous occasion at Goodison Park in 2008, the away fans responded by singing “2-0 to the Murderers”. I know that this was somewhere between a knee-jerk response and an attempt to “reclaim” that offensive description, but it sounded 19
awful. Were they listening in Turin? You would hope not. For many years, Liverpool’s response to Heysel was woefully inadequate. I was recently shown a copy of the club’s official yearbook for 1985/86. There were two articles about the tragedy on page three, but they were both of the “Let’s put this behind us, improve the matchday Anfield atmosphere and look to restore the club’s good name” variety. There was no direct reference to what had happened. There was no hint of an apology. Later there was a round-up of the previous European Cup campaign, in which 1985/86 was identified as a “watershed” because it would be Liverpool’s last for some time. Over time, there was a recognition that more – much more – needed to be done. In 2000, the city of Liverpool officially commemorated the anniversary of Heysel for the first time – on the suggestion, incidentally, of Peter Millea, the chairman of Liverpool City Council’s Hillsborough disaster working party. They do at least now have a memorial plaque at Anfield, they do have extensive coverage of the tragedy on their official website and they do pay tribute on May 30 every year, even if it took far too long for the club to recognise the tragedy and the stain it had left – not unlike Sheffield Wednesday with Hillsborough, although the circumstances there involved appalling failures at executive level. Heysel is a huge stain on Liverpool’s history. It is undeniable.
And yet none of this diminishes the club’s or the supporters’ right to grieve or to campaign or to express anger over what happened in Sheffield four years later. One real mystery surrounding Heysel is that the tragedy is even more of a taboo in Turin. Go on to the Italian club’s official website in search of a tribute and you will struggle to find anything beyond 106 words within a 645word article called “Juventus wins everything”, a tribute to their successes in the 1970s and 1980s.
“For many years the bereaved met with what they perceived to be a sense of denial from Juventus about a disaster that overshadowed the club’s long-awaited first European Cup win.” Of the club’s first European Cup triumph in 1985, it says: “The longawaited success in Europe ’s highest accolade was tainted with sadness” … “Something unexplainable happened…and 39 innocent victims lost their lives. Football, from that moment, would never be the same again.” …“It’s a joyless success, but the victory enabled the Bianconeri to fly to Tokyo in winter to play the Intercontinental Cup final. Argentinos Junior were beaten on penalties and Juve were the world champions.” You will have to do an archive search to find anything more than that – specifically a couple of news articles on the anniversary.
Last year’s includes details of a permanent Heysel exhibit at the museum which opened this year at the new Juventus Stadium. The club has decided that relatives of the victims will always be allowed permanent free access to the museum. This is progress. For many years the bereaved met with what they perceived to be a sense of denial from Juventus about a disaster that overshadowed the club’s longawaited first European Cup win. In The Truths of Heysel – a book written by Andrea Lorentini, whose father Roberto died in Brussels and whose grandfather Otello has led the campaign for the victims to be officially recognised by the club – writes of the “bewilderment, reticence, guilty silences and suspicion” the bereaved have faced in their dealings with Juventus. Justice for Heysel? There can never be justice for 39 lives lost at a football match, but it is in Turin, not on Merseyside, that the cries of the bereaved have met with silence down the years. The families do not want their lost ones to become a cause célèbre in England, particularly not when the purpose has purely been to score points on the terraces. A little more recognition closer to home is what they want. n Oliver Kay is Chief Football Correspondent for The Times. This is an extended version of an article that appeared in The Times on September 15. @OliverKayTimes
Anfield - 23/9/12
WHERE WERE YOU WHEN WE NEEDED HELP?
HE match had only been going for six minutes when the referee blew the whistle to stop play. As the players stood still the planned minute’s silence gave way to a standing ovation around the ground and then the words to You’ll Never Walk Alone broke out among the fans gathered in the south stand. Four days earlier the tragedy which would eventually claim the lives of 96 Liverpool fans had played out on a terrace almost 1,000 miles away. The game resumed and AC Milan swept aside Real Madrid 5-0 en route to the final of a European Cup that they would claim with some style. On the weekend after the Hillsborough Independent Panel reported back its findings up and down the UK similar tributes were paid by fans. Supporters from Blackpool, Stoke City, Leeds United, Coventry City, Bristol City, Tranmere Rovers, Manchester City, Arsenal, Reading, Sunderland and Everton all paid their respects. Other clubs, too, as the full enormity of the Hillsborough scandal finally registered. Among the fall out from the HIP findings, there is a real sense that the public finally “got it”. Got what we had known all along. The vocal support from fellow fans certainly offered the most public sense of this validation and will have 22
BY MIKE HILL
Stephen Warnock lays a floral tribute at Anfield in 2009 been welcomed by every Liverpool supporter. But it also left a sense of what might have been. What might have been if fans of other clubs had been motivated to step outside of their tribal passions and think about the bigger football tribe over the past 23 years. For
every visiting supporter who has stood and applauded as ‘Justice of the 96’ has reverberated around Anfield, imagine if that message had boomed out from stadia up and down the land, regardless of the teams. Week in, week out. Imagine every opposition fan we have met in pubs over the years who has sympathised with Liverpool fans had chosen instead to empathise with his fellow football fans as he respectfully tied his scarf to the Shankly Gates. Imagine if they had seen the fight as theirs – created their own banners, stickers, scarves, mosaics and leaflets to spread their message. Would the journey for The Truth have taken 23 years to win out? This is not to dismiss the many fanzine writers up and down the land who have “got it”. And those clubs whose followers have produced Justice flags, teams like Everton, Celtic, Cardiff City and Sunderland. But at times it has seemed more fans across Europe have “got it” than those closer to home with clubs from Ajax to Borussia Monchengladbach to Banik Ostrava all flying flags of support. The Borussia fans even donated around £7,000 to the Hillsborough families. A few years ago no Premiership away trip was complete without a chorus from the home end of ‘easy, easy’ to accompany the latest Djimi Traore balls up in the box. The inane chant and overhead clap
from the days of Saturday afternoon wrestling was brought to football grounds by Soccer AM’s Tim Lovejoy and ensured any set of fans a few minutes’ coverage on Saturday morning television. How easy it was to encourage supporters everywhere to get involved in the ‘banter’. The same show’s campaign for Save Chip banners on the terraces spread through the lower leagues like wildfire with any home-made flag tied to a pillar given 15 seconds of fame by Sky. Well worth scrawling on a sheet for. And how we chuckled... But imagine another world where fans understood what Hillsborough had done for them. That Hillsborough could have been them. Imagine if they had paused to recall their own experience of going to football in the 1980s and that maybe, just maybe, the Scousers with their yellow stickers had a point. And imagine what power they could have harnessed if they had made their own banners, started their own petitions and lobbied their own MPs. Imagine. It isn’t hard to do. @MichaelEHill
SCOUSE SOLIDARITY: Napoli (top), Banik Ostrava, Celtic and Everton fans show their support for the fight for justice for the 96
WHAT THE PAPERS SAID Independent on Sunday: “The casual disrespect for the dead – such as the taking without parental consent of blood samples from dead children for alcohol testing – was revealing of the attitudes of the authorities as they scrambled to disown responsibility. For 23 years, the Hillsborough relatives have been failed by those in authority and by those who are supposed to hold those in authority to account.” daIly MaIl: “They tested the blood alcohol levels of dead children. In trying to digest the report that was published by the Hillsborough Independent Panel yesterday, it was hard to see beyond what David Cameron considered an astonishing decision by the coroner. It was
also hard to see beyond the needless loss of life, the sheer scale of the cover-up, the levels of corruption, the ‘double injustice’.” lIverpool echo: “Twenty-three years, four months and 28 days – it is to their eternal shame that the massed ranks of the Establishment blocked and obstructed the Hillsborough families, survivors and fellow campaigners for this long. But their party is over... On April 15, 1989 – and afterwards – Liverpool fans were effectively dismissed as
worthless by people who apparently had no hesitation in launching a full-scale assault on their reputations for their own sickening, selfserving ends.” Daily Star: “Sorry is not enough. Those responsible for the mistakes and lies that left dozens of football fans dead must face court.” Daily ExprESS: “What has emerged is the most shaming account of failings and dishonesty by the civil authorities in living memory.”
Brian rEaDE, thE Mirror: “It felt like a machine gun was hosing down all the myths and lies that led to the grotesque fiction that said we killed our own. The inquest verdicts of accidental death, the defence that there was no cover-up, that the disaster was caused by a “tanked up ticketless mob,” The Sun’s front page, the accuracy of police and ambulance statements, the notion that the stadium was safe and that victims could not have been saved. Boom, boom, boom. All shot down as cruel and calculated lies.” thE tElEgraph: They didn’t think the biggest cover up in British history was worthy of page one coverage. Instead, a staged pic of Kate Middleton dominated, alongside stories including a thief who hid mobile phones in his tights. It’s a decision impossible to justify. News-wise it was the big story – human tragedy compounded by corruption, collusion and conspiracy, now exposed for all to see. Except Telegraph readers.
TIMELINE TO THE TRUTH
Looking back at the 23-year-long fight that led to the day the Hillsborough families feared they’d never see
April 15, 1989: Fans travel to Sheffield to for the FA Cup semifinal with Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough, a ground with a safety certificate that had expired in 1979. Liverpool had faced Forest a year earlier at the same stage of the competition in the same ground. Concerns were raised then of over-crowding and crushing in the Leppings Lane end, and some fans even wrote to the FA and the then Minister of Sport, Colin Moynihan. These letters are among the documents included in the Hillsboorugh Independent Panel’s report (see right). In 1981, Spurs fans had spilled on to the pitch after crushing in the same end in an FA Cup final. In 1987, Coventry fans were injured in the Leppings Lane end in a quarterfinal game and spoke of their relief at not being allocated that end for the semi-final with Leeds. Instead, it was the Yorkshire side’s fans who were crushed, with one fan detailing online how he couldn’t “raise his arms to clap his hands”. Concerns about crushing in the Leppings Lane end were raised as far back as 1957 when Manchester United played Birmingham in a semifinal. Then, fans were turned away from central pens. In 1987, the kickoff was delayed. In 1989, neither happened. Liverpool were allocated the smaller end in Leppings Lane and allocated 5,000 fewer tickets than Forest despite having a significantly larger support. In all, 10,100 Liverpool supporters held terrace tickets for that day with a further 14,156 holding tickets for the seated 26
upper tier and adjacent West Stand. Seven turnstiles were supposed to serve the 10,100 entering the Leppings Lane terrace – an average of 1,450 per turnstile. At Penistone Road, where the Forest supporters arrived, 29,800 entered through 60 turnstiles – an average of only 500 per turnstile. Roadworks on the way to Sheffield had delayed many fans and by 2.30pm there was congestion in the bottleneck area that gives access to Leppings Lane. The opposite Kop end is open to the road (see aerial
view). The previous year, Match Commander Chief Inspector Brian Mole put in place barricades across the road leading to the Leppings Lane turnstiles to monitor access to the cramped entrance area. Mole was taken off the 1989 match three weeks before kick off and replaced by Chief Inspector David Dukinfield, who had no experience of managing a football game of this size and did not implement any monitoring system outside. So lax was Dukinfield in his preparation that he did not even visit
the stadium before the game was played. 2.40pm: An announcement is made over the tannoy asking people on the terraces to move forward as the central pens are already almost full. A PC Buxton radios to suggest delaying the kick-off as happened at the 1987 semi-final between Coventry and Leeds. The request is denied by Duckinfield and second-in-command Superintendent Bernard Murray, who have access to five TV screens in their control room overlooking the Leppings Lane terrace which show live images from fully-functional CCTV cameras complete with zoom capability at that end of the ground. The tapes from these cameras went ‘missing’ and were never recovered. It still remains a mystery as to who stole the tapes from a locked police control box or why they were stolen. It’s a fair guess they are incriminating. Still no attempt is made to prevent access to the tunnel that leads into the packed central pens or to steer people into the emptier ones. 2.52pm: Superintendent Marshall on duty in the area around the Leppings Lane terrace entrance tells Dukinfield that people may be killed outside if gates are not opened. Dukinfield admits later to having ‘frozen’. He then gives the order to open Gate C, allowing 2,000 people to stream into the ground. Many head straight down the unblocked tunnel directly in front of them which led to the central pens. By that time, an estimated 3,000 people were now in the central pens – almost double its official capacity.
3pm: Constable Waugh from South Yorkshire Police HQ calls through asking if ambulances are required but is told by the Control Room to remain on stand-by. Control instead request more officers and dog handlers as they believe a pitch invasion is taking place with supporters beginning to climb over the perimeter fence to escape the crush. 3.04pm: Peter Beardsley hits the
bar at the other end of the field leading to an inevitable surge in the pens and a minute later a crush barrier in pen 3 gave way. 3.06pm: Superintendent Roger Greenwood goes on to the pitch and instructs referee Ray Lewis to halt the match. After initially closing gates at the front of the pens that had sprung open due to the pressure inside, police officers eventually open them
and begin getting people out. Doctors at the ground and the 30 St John’s Ambulance staff present come on to the pitch. 3.13pm: A St John’s ambulance enters the pitch and positions itself by pens 3 and 4. A further 42 ambulances arrive but are told fans are fighting and only one more makes it on to the pitch. There is no call for doctors or nurses over the PA until 3.30pm. 3.17pm: FA chief executive Graham Kelly visits the Police Control Room where he is told by Dukinfield fans rushed Gate C and forced it open – a calculated lie that quickly spread around the world. By 3.40pm, BBC Radio Two broadcasts, “unconfirmed reports are that a door was broken at the end that was holding Liverpool supporters”. When ambulances, fire engines with hydraulic cutting gear and resuscitation equipment and the Major Disaster Vehicle are able to access the stadium - a process hindered by advertising boards and the lay-out of the ground - most supporters have left the pens. In the meantime, supporters – who rightly now may finally be recognised as the heroes - tear down advertising hoardings to use as stretchers to ferry the injured to the ambulances outside. Some police officers form a line across the middle of the pitch in their expectation that opposing fans might attack each other. 3.30pm: At a meeting in the boardroom with Graham Kelly, the match referee and representatives of the three clubs involved, Dukinfield indicates the match is likely to be 27
THE TRUTH abandoned, which it is officially at 4.10pm. 3.45pm: A doctor treating people on the pitch is asked to examine bodies being placed in the stadium’s gymnasium, now being used as a temporary mortuary, to certify deaths. All in all 730 supporters are injured and ultimately 96 die (Tony Bland’s life-support machine was turned off in 1993). Only 14 ever make it to a hospital despite 42 ambulances with 84 trained personnel being within 300 yards of the disaster scene. South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Peter Wright states at a press conference later that “3,000 fans turned up in a ten-minute period prior to kick-off” while Police Federation Officer Paul Middup told ITV that “500 plus” fans arrived without tickets and were “hell-bent on getting in”. The cover up and smear campaign was up and running before a funeral had taken place. A Health and Safety Executive report and Sheffield Wednesday Football Club’s own admission system later show the terrace did not exceed its 10,100 capacity. Families of the dead are immediately interrogated by police once they have identified their loved ones as to how many pubs the deceased had stopped off at and how much alcohol they had consumed. The Sheffield Coroner later decides to take blood alcohol levels from every single victim including the youngest, ten-year-old Jon-Paul Gilhooley. Where alcohol was not present, Police checked for criminal records to “impugn their reputations”. APRIL 16 1989 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visits the scene of the disaster with Home Secretary Douglas Hurd and Press Secretary Bernard Ingham. Ingham is later quoted as saying, “I know what I learned on the spot; there would have been no Hillsborough if a mob, clearly tanked up, had not tried to force their way into the ground.” At Anfield people begin to bring flowers and scarves, laying them at the Shankly Gates in tribute to the dead. As the tributes grew, club secretary Peter Robinson instructed
staff to let people into the ground to pay their respects while the Salvation Army arrived to help comfort people. APRIL 17 1989 Lord Justice Taylor is appointed to conduct a public inquiry into the disaster. West Midlands Police are later instructed to examine the role of the South Yorkshire force. APRIL 19 1989 The Sun, on the instructions of
editor Kelvin McKenzie, publishes a front page story under the headline, ‘The Truth’, claiming Liverpool supporters stole from victims as they lay dead, urinated on the police and attacked officers, firemen and ambulance crew during the rescue operation. According to Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie in Stick it Up Your Punter - the Rise and Fall of the Sun, MacKenzie spent an unusual amount of time deliberating over the headline: “MacKenzie then did an
enormously uncharacteristic thing. He sat for fully half an hour thinking about the front page layout.” According to the book he pondered two headlines, one that was rejected reading “You Scum”, and the one eventually used. The story also featured Sheffield MP Irvine Patnick claiming that a gang of Liverpool fans noticed that the blouse of a girl trampled to death had risen above her breasts. The story read: “As a policeman struggled in vain to revive her, the mob jeered: ‘Throw her up here and we will **** her’”. Other papers reported the story but stressed they were allegations made by police: The Mirror (“Fury as police claim victims were robbed”) and Star (“What Cops Say About Hboro: Dead fans robbed by drunk thugs”). Sadly, even the Liverpool Daily Post swallowed the narrative and helped to spread the lies through a scurrilous opinion piece from columnist John Willams. “Scouse killed Scouse for no better reason than 22 men were kicking a ball,” he wrote. The HIP report revealed Sheffieldbased Whites News Agency to be the source of the lies with a June 1989 memo detailing how the claims were stood up by claims of four senior police officers, a South Yorkshire chief ambulance officer and the then local Conservative MP, Patnick. April 21, 1989 Two days after The Sun’s story, Home Secretary Douglas Hurd infers in the House of Commons that 19 police officers were physically assaulted at the ground and that South Yorkshire Police are gathering information to pass on to the inquiry. On May 3 however he is unable to state how these injuries were sustained and no evidence is ever passed on to the inquiry. The lack of a single witness statement, piece of evidence or image frame from the thousands of press photographs and 71 hours of recorded video footage leads Lord Taylor to completely dismiss the allegations in his report. Further, the released documents show that Hurd was briefed by civil servants as to the full extent of the problems with the Hillsborough ground. Essentially, the Government
knew the real truth two days after the disaster. Hurd’s statement to the House of Commons two days after the disaster include civil servant briefings that answer whether the ground complied with the ‘Guide on Safety at Sports Grounds’. The answers include: “Does the ground comply with the guide? (A) Entry turnstiles – appears unlikely (B) rate of Entry with route – Not when gate opened, well overloaded (C) Stewards/police – Not clear yet whether numbers and dispersal adequate (D) Entry to Terrace from route – Need to see plans – Appears there were no control barriers (E) radial/lateral Gangways – Need to see plans – Film indicated that these were not defined or kept clear (F) Crash Barriers – Engineer’s statement that they were tested and complied for strength (G) pitch perimeter Fence – From film it appears that emergency gates are rather narrow and limited in number.” This was a day after Hurd had visited the ground, and despite the growing narrative of hooliganism, drunkenness, and ticketless fans, he crossed his pen through this briefing and wrote: “Matters for the inquiry.” Those facts, those truths,
conveniently stayed hidden as lies were continually disseminated and became embedded in the national conscience. April 29, 1989 A memorial service takes place at the city’s Anglican Cathedral April 30, 1989 Liverpool play their first game since the disaster when they travel to Glasgow to take on Celtic in a friendly to raise funds for the victims of Hillsborough (below). MAy 3, 1989 The Reds return to competitive action four days at Goodison in a rescheduled league game at Goodison. MAy 7, 1989 Liverpool beat Nottingham Forest in the replayed semi-final at Old Trafford, Manchester to set up an allMerseyside final against Everton. AuGuST 4, 1989 The Interim Taylor Report is published after the submission of 3,776 written statements of evidence, 1,550 letters, 71 hours of video footage and the oral evidence of 174 witnesses. Sir Peter Taylor finds the main reason of the disaster to be the failure of police control. Liverpool supporters are exonerated, and praised for their efforts in supporting
the rescue operation. The slow reaction of police to to initiate the Disaster Plan, the Football Association, Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Wednesday Football Club are all criticised but the most scathing verdict is saved for Match Commander David Dukinfield. His decision to open Gate C and failure to guide fans away from the packed central plans are described as ‘blunders of the first magnitude’. He is also condemned for his failure to take effective control and South Yorkshire Police’s attempts to blame supporters for being late and drunk. The report stated: “It is a matter of regret that at the hearing, and in their submissions, the South Yorkshire Police were not prepared to concede they were in any respect at fault in what occurred. “Mr Dukinfield, under pressure of cross-examination, apologised for blaming the Liverpool fans for causing the deaths. But, that apart, the police case was to blame the fans for being late and drunk, and to blame the Club for failing to monitor the pens. It was argued that the fatal crush was not caused by the influx through gate C but was due to barrier 124a being defective. “Such an unrealistic approach gives cause for anxiety as to whether lessons have been learnt. It would have been more seemly and encouraging for the future if responsibility had been faced.” Dukinfield was suspended from duty on the day the Interim Taylor Report was released. On July 11, 1990 the Police Complaints Authority instructed South Yorkshire Police to commence disciplinary proceedings against Dukinfield and Bernard Murray. Dukinfield faced four charges of neglect of duty and one of discreditable conduct while Murray 30
faced one charge of neglect of duty. In November 1990, Dukinfield resigned due to ill health and the disciplinary action was dropped with South Yorkshire Police also deciding it unfair to proceed against Murray alone. April 15, 1990 The Anfield stadium memorial is unveiled on the first anniversary of the disaster. April 18, 1990 South Yorkshire Coroner Dr
Stefan Popper began the process of inquests despite the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) not having yet ruled whether any action was to be taken - a decision which normally takes placed ahead of inquests in such cases. A series of mini-inquests take place at a rate of around eight per day. Details of every victim - including the blood-alcohol level (even in the many cases where it was negative) - are read out to the jury by members of the West Midlands Police force, who are again charged with providing evidence, with no cross-examination allowed.
August 14, 1990 DPP Allan Green decides to bring no criminal prosecutions against any individual, group or corporate body as a result of the disaster, citing insufficient evidence. The inquests resume the following month at Sheffield Town Hall with the jury now hearing the uncontested view that the victims died quickly and with no pre-death trauma. Crucially, a 3.15pm cut-off point is imposed by the Coroner, in light of his view that all victims had received the injuries they would die from at this point and died of traumatic asphyxia, meaning any evidence or inquiry into the lack of effective emergency response is ruled inadmissible. Much of the inquest focuses on the build-up outside the ground with some local residents and licensees giving evidence supporting the unsubstantiated allegations of ticketless, drunken fans that Taylor refuted in his report. When Police Superintendent Marshall, the officer who requested that Gate C be opened, used the court to liken the crowd to ‘an army that couldn’t be stopped’, a request was made for the jury to be dismissed and the inquest stopped. After two days of legal arguments, the Coroner requested the jury to ‘forget’ any prejudicial comments. Summing up, Coroner Popper warned the jury against a verdict of unlawful killing unless they were satisfied individuals were recklessly negligent in their actions and that a verdict of accidental death did not equate to ‘no blame’ and could include a degree of negligence. MArch 28 1991 After the longest inquest in British history lasting 90 days, a verdict of accidental death was returned by a majority verdict of 9-2. MArch 1993 Unhappy with the accidental verdict and having secured evidence backed by forensic pathologists that their loved ones were still alive after the 3.15pm cut-off point and did not die from traumatic asphyxiation, six families submit memorials to the Attorney General seeking new inquests.
Their applications are dismissed as ‘not being in the interests of justice’ but are challenged and eventually, more than two years later, a Judicial Review in the Royal Courts of Justice is held. Lord Justice McCowan backs the Sheffield Coroner’s verdict, rejecting compelling evidence from the period after the 3.15pm cut-off point, stating Dr Popper had made a ‘full’ inquiry.
resuscitation at 3.37pm while Martin said Kevin opened his eyes and said “Mum” just before he died. Both Bruder and Martin’s statements were changed after visits from the West Midlands police to suggest there were no signs of life they both still emphatically stand by their original statements. Eight months later, the ruling came back again that a new inquest would not be ‘in the interests of justice’
November 1994 Anne Williams (pictured), who has long held compelling evidence that her 15-year-old son was alive long past the cut-off point and could easily have been saved, secures parliamentary debate in the House of Commons Anne’s MP at the time, Sir Malcolm Thornton, presents her information in the House of Commons in front of Attorney General Sir Nicholas Lyall. Key to the new evidence is the story of Tony Edwards, an assistant ambulance driver on the day of the
December 1996 Jimmy McGovern’s dramadocumentary Hillsborough renews public interest in the issues, leading to calls for a new inquiry.
disaster who, having finally been able to break the police blockade of the ambulances outside the ground, entered the pitch at 3.35pm. West Midlands police submissions to the Taylor Report and the inquests were that there was never an ambulance on the ground at that time but this was disproved by their own compilation video of the day. Edwards, the only paramedic to actually reach the Leppings Lane end, was never called to give evidence to the Taylor Report or the inquest. His testimony added weight to the account of off-duty policeman Derek Bruder and special police constable Debra Martin, who both testified that Kevin had signs of life up to 4pm; Bruder found a pulse when giving
may 1997 34,000 people attend the fundraising Hillsborough Justice Concert at Anfield as the newly-elected Labour government promise to consider the claims of those still campaigning for the truth over Hillsborough. The following month Home Secretary Jack Straw appoints Lord Justice Stuart-Smith to conduct a ‘scrutiny of evidence’. october 6, 1997 Stuart-Smith arrives at Liverpool’s Maritime Museum and immediately asks a bereaved father, “Have you got a few of your people here or are the like the Liverpool fans, turn up at the last minute?”. He asseses new evidence not
presented at the inquiry or inquests as well as the 3.15pm cut-off point and instances of changed witness statements but concludes there is ‘nothing significant’ to warrant a new inquiry, with Jack Straw confirming that assessment the following February. July 25, 2000 Private prosecutions against Dukinfield and Murray end without resolution In August 1998, the Hillsborough Family Support Group began private prosecutions against David Dukinfield and Bernard Murray on charges of manslaughter and wilful malfeasance, with a further charge of perverting the course of justice filed against Dukinfield. After a six-week trial, the jury finds Murray not guilty of manslaughter and, after eight days of deliberation, is unable to reach a verdict on Dukinfield. The jury do indicate that if allowed more time they may be able to reach a majority verdict but Mr Justice Hooper decides against this and refuses a retrial. march 2001 The South Yorkshire Police Authority refuse to reveal how much compensation it paid out to the police and public over the disaster. Families claim the secrecy proves that far more has gone to police officers than to the fans and families who suffered. Former police sergeant Martin Long, 39, had just been given £330,000 after developing posttraumatic stress nine years after the disaster. Four years earlier, 14 officers received a total of £1.2m in compensation. Phil Hammond received just £3,500 following the death of his 14-year-old son, Philip. 7 July, 2004 The Sun apologises for ‘The Truth’. After a backlash inspired by Croxteth-born Everton striker Wayne Rooney selling his story to the tabloid after his starring role at Euro 2004, The Sun says it is ‘truly sorry’ for the ‘most terrible mistake in its history’ in a piece inside the paper that leads with a ‘Fans turn on Rooney’ headline on its front page. The Hillsborough Justice Campaign describes the apology as a veiled 31
THE TRUTH attack on the people of Liverpool, adding “It is our belief that The Sun has seriously miscalculated the intelligence of Liverpool people who, we believe, will see through this cynical attempt to increase sales in the Merseyside region.” November 30, 2006 Kelvin MacKenzie reinforces Hillsborough slurs at a business lunch in Newcastle. He said: “I went on the World At One the next day and apologised. I only did that because Rupert Murdoch told me to. I wasn’t sorry then and I’m not sorry now because we told the truth. There was a surge of Liverpool fans who had been drinking and that is what caused the disaster.” Liverpool fans use the first six minutes of the following month’s televised FA Cup fixture against Arsenal to chant ‘Justice for the 96’. November 21, 2005 Anne Williams submits her case to the European Court of Human Rights under section two of the European Human Rights Act, ‘the right to life’ and section 13 of the Coroner’s Act, ‘the right to a fair inquest’. Over three years later, and just weeks before the twentieth anniversary of the disaster, the European court rules that her application should have been lodged within six months of Lord Justice Stuart Smith’s scrutiny in 1997 and she is ‘out of time’. April 15, 2009 Sports minister Andy Burnham calls for disclosure of all Hillsborough documents at the 20th anniversary memorial service at Anfield which is attended by around 30,000 people. Burnham, who emerged as a key figure in the battle for the truth, has his address interrupted by a passionate plea of of ‘Justice for the 96’ from the crowd. Later, backed by long-term campaigner and Garston and Halewood MP Maria Eagle, Burnham calls for full disclosure of all Hillsborough documents. In July the Home Office announces its commitment to release all information not previously made available and its intention to appoint an Independent Panel to oversee the release of the information. JANuAry 26, 2010 32
The Independent Panel members are named. Chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, they include Phil Scraton, professor of criminology at Queen’s University, Belfast, and author of Hillsborough: The Truth; Katy Jones, TV and factual producer on Jimmy McGovern’s Hillsborough, and broadcaster Peter Sissons. August 2011 The government appeal the Information Commissioner’s decision to make public Hillsborough documents relating to Margaret Thatcher. Within days an online e-petition set up by LFC fan Brian Irvine calls for full disclosure of the hidden documents. It gains the 100,000 signatures needed for it to be considered for parliamentary debate. In fact, such is the support it ends up with more than 140,000 signatures. Home Secretary Theresa May confirms, without a vote, that all documents will be released in full to the Independent Panel. Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram ends his moving opening speech by reading out the names of the 96 so they are recorded in Hansard. FebruAry, 22 2012 The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, QC, hints he will make an application for a fresh inquest into the death of 15-year-old Kevin Williams, from Formby. In the House of Commons debate into Kevin’s case sparked by an e-petition that gained over 118,000 signatures, Mr Grieve tells MPs he expects the Hillsborough Panel to unearth evidence which could tip the balance in Kevin’s case. september 12, 2012 A day that will go down in history as the Hillsborough Independent Panel releases its report exposing the truth of what happened on April 15, 1989 and the conspiracy and cover ups that have come since. Crucially, it prompts an apology from Prime Minister David Cameron. Now for justice...
HEROES: Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham achieved more for the fight for truth than Tony nthanks to Dan Kay from the liverpool echo @dankay Blair ever did, as the cutting from the Daily Mail shows
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WINDOW PAIN GARETH ROBERTS ON THE TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY DEBACLE THAT LEFT LIVERPOOL SHORT OF FIREPOWER
RENDAN RODGERS couldn’t have made it any clearer. He wanted, expected, and probably demanded that there be additions to Liverpool’s squad on transfer deadline day. Namely, he wanted goalscorers: “I’ve been given as much confidence as I can possibly get that we will have someone to come in,” Rodgers said the week before transfer deadline day. “I’ve said all along that I have Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini as front line strikers, and the young lads like Adam Morgan are getting experience, but between now and January I need more than that. “Hopefully on Friday we can do some work and get something complete because we certainly need it. I am hoping for one or two. We need one, that’s for sure.” He got minus one. No-one in and Andy Carroll loaned out, lessening the options up front further, supposedly to help pave the way for the incoming player(s). Top target Clint Dempsey, who was desperate to join the club, was passed over for the sake of £1-2m or so. For all the talk of plans, and strategies and approaches, it made no sense. No sense whatsoever. The squad is weaker, the manager is pissed off, the fans are unhappy and the fingers are being pointed at the boardroom (and Boston) again. PR-wise, too, it’s a disaster. Dempsey isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and, at 29, he doesn’t fit the Moneyball/ Soccernomics/Whateveritscallednow model. But football-wise, and reputation-wise, the deal made a lot of sense. Ultimately, the manager wanted him. That should have been good enough. It wasn’t a massive ask – it’s not like he was calling for the signature of Radamel Falcao… “There’s no doubt we need to add
Maxi’s gone . . .
goals to the team,” said Rodgers. “Getting people who are recognised goalscorers to come in is the number one objective.” Dempsey scored 23 in 45 appearances last season. Hardworking and flexible positionally, the American offered a great sticking plaster solution for a squad short on numbers and for ‘just’ £6m-ish – a million over the fee raised from Adam’s sale to Stoke and the loan fee West Ham have coughed up for Carroll. Instead, the club’s administration has been made to look amateur. Again. It’s not just about Dempsey – it’s more than that. Why did the club wait to so late in the window to try to strike deals? Why wasn’t there a back-up plan? Not only did Liverpool miss out on a player the manager clearly wanted, he’s ended up at a direct rival in Spurs. That’s the second time since Rodgers arrived that he’s been gazumped for a target by the Londoners when the Reds appeared to be firmly in the driving seat. Many say that Gylfi Sigurðsson, too, should have been a Liverpool player. So what does this say about the club and its standing? Club chairman Tom Werner said in April: “I would say we certainly have the resources to compete with anybody in football.” And a club statement at Rodgers’ unveiling read: “The owners are always willing to provide funds where necessary to strengthen the squad. There will be no requirement to sell players this summer in order to fund new purchases.” It would appear that’s not the case, Tom. There’s conflicting accounts doing the rounds of what exactly happened on that last Friday of transfer dealings. Club sources suggested that Fulham tried to screw Liverpool over, asking for more cash then they’d accepted from Aston Villa.
DEADLINE DAY DEBACLE . . . and so has Dirk Kuyt
Elsewhere, reputable sources suggested the exact opposite – that Liverpool in fact tried to undercut that offer knowing the player wanted to come to the club and never offered the asking price. It could be argued that Fulham had every right to be pissed off and demand a premium, even if the alternative view is correct. The article on the NESN site about Dempsey was cringeworthy and sparked the rolling of a dirty snowball that led to the manager confirming his interest which was then reported on the official LFC site. That prompted Fulham to put in an official complaint to the Premier League, accusing Liverpool of tapping up the player. If the boot was on the other foot…well you’d be pissed off, wouldn’t you? But back to the key point – the manager has been undermined. On the one hand, the club was seemingly happy to sanction a puzzling swap deal for Dempsey involving Jordan Henderson
but on the other wouldn’t stump up what in football terms was buttons cashwise. It makes little sense, and seems to be a classic case of cutting off the nose to spite the face. So who should the finger be pointed at? Well FSG, or more specifically John Henry and Tom Werner, are undoubtedly pulling the strings from afar, and beyond that, well again the manager said it within the last week: “Ian Ayre, our managing director…has worked tirelessly over the course of this window to manage deals, in and out.” A bit more successfully with the outs than the ins it seems, Ian. Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy, Alberto Aquilani, Andy Carroll, Maxi Rodriguez, Fabio Aurelio, Charlie Adam, Jay Spearing, and Nathan Eccleston have all moved on in recent times, saving at least £20m a year in wages. If the club had had its way, Stewart Downing, Henderson, Danny Wilson and Dani Pacheco would have gone too. Strength in depth, anyone? Yes, many of the names above are past their best
or were never good enough in the first place, but this isn’t the 70s – the athletic nature of modern football coupled with the cramped fixture list means squad rotation is a necessity. As it is, Liverpool are approaching four months of football with one senior striker. The owners have been selling us a vision since they walked through the door: we’re competitive, we’ve got money, we can win stuff – we’ll be back among the elite in no time, stick with it. Many, myself included, have given them the benefit of the doubt. Now? Well, it’s all starting to feel a bit over promise, under deliver. Judge for yourself… “The owners and supporters of Liverpool have a common goal and that is to see the club play among the best teams in Europe and be the best team in England.”- Tom Werner “It is critical we make the Champions League because there is so much revenue associated with that. We see our competitors not just as Chelsea or
DEADLINE DAY DEBACLE Were we really too skint for Clint?
the Premier League but five have now 89 and champions Man City 93, almost Manchester City and Manchester United left: Bellamy, Carroll, Rodriguez, Kuyt double the Reds’ goal haul. but we see Barcelona and Real Madrid (2) and Charlie Adam (2). The season before the fourth-placed as teams that are iconic and playing In the games so far this season, the team was Arsenal (72 goals). In 09-10 it good football. We know our competitors same old problem has reared its ugly was Spurs (67 goals), 08-09 Arsenal (68 are working hard. We need to work just head – Liverpool aren’t clinical enough goals) and in 07-08 it was Liverpool (67 as hard and be just as smart.” – Tom in front of goal. The side needs more goals). Werner goalscorers and the responsibility Across five seasons there’s a range “When we came in our goal was to be needs to be lifted from the shoulders of of just six goals for fourth spot. It the best team in England, not just the Suarez. top four, to compete with the best teams looks pretty nailed on that to qualify Adam Morgan and Samed Yesil – two for the Champions League you need to in Europe. We believe that Brendan’s 18-year-olds – will not provide that lift. score more than 65 goals. To do that, philosophy and his tactics will bring us Borini is only 21 and the jury is out. He well, guess what, you’ll need a few there. should be eased into the side rather “We have no set target for when to do goalscorers at the club. than be expected to notch 20-odd goals In 07-08, Fernando Torres scored that, we’ve always looked for slow and from the get go. 24 Premier League goals while Steven measured improvement and we believe If Suarez is injured for a long period, Gerrard managed 11. Peter Crouch and that we will be more successful going Liverpool will be ridiculously short Andriy Voronin weighed in with five, and forward, not just this year but in the up top, relying on rookies to cut the Yossi Benayoun and Ryan Babel both future.” – Tom Werner mustard in a league that takes no scored four. All in all, 13 players scored Where’s the logic in denying the prisoners. In July, when asked about for Liverpool in the league that season. manager Dempsey? Where’s the logic in Carroll, Werner said: “Brendan is clearly Last season, Suarez was the top actually reducing the options in the area the leader here. goalscorer in the Premier League with of the pitch that Liverpool struggled so “The only thing I can say is we will do 11. Craig Bellamy got six, Gerrard five, badly last season? what is best for the club.” and Andy Carroll and Maxi Rodriguez On transfer deadline day, that promise Last season, Liverpool scored just 47 was broken. None in and one out up goals in 38 league games. Fourth-placed scored four each. front was football negligence. Again, 13 Liverpool players scored in Spurs scored 66, Arsenal 74, Man United 36
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RAFA’S LEGACY IS STARTING TO BEAR FRUIT
BENITEZ IS STILL A NAME TO DIVIDE THE FAITHFUL. BUT THE YOUTH POLICY HE INSTIGATED IS AT THE HEART OF BRENDAN RODGERS’ PLANS
IVERPOOL fans have a lot to thank Rafael Benítez for. Whether it was restoring the club’s place at Europe’s top table, uncovering the full extent of Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s mismanagement or finishing home games with Albert Riera and Nabil El Zhar at full-back, he gave the Anfield crowd a lot to be grateful for. He wasn’t perfect, of course. He was erratic, cautious, overzealous. His obsession with finances leaves a legacy of the Anfield twitterati scrawling “net spend” in lipstick on the walls of their parents’ basement. He signed Robbie Keane. But his most telling contribution is only just starting to emerge. It can be found galloping down the left hand side or driving through the centre of midfield; it will be seen at left back or up front, in the Capital One Cup and Europa League. Raheem Sterling, Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Robinson, Adam Morgan. The kids are alright. In fact, some of them are very good. It was the Spaniard who insisted the club reassessed how they used their youth set-up. An embarrassing 6-3 League Cup defeat to Arsenal in January 2007 was the catalyst for Benítez to overhaul the system. Gone was the splintered, disjointed relationship between the different age groups; instead, a common style of play was implemented throughout, with only certain types of players scouted. The summer of 2009 saw the trio of Frank McParland (director), Rodolfo Borrell (Under-21 head coach) and 38
Adam Morgan has already made an impact
Pep Segura (technical director, now departed) hired to aid that development. There has been a lot of negativity surrounding Liverpool since the transfer window closed on the final day of August. Most supporters are in a malaise over the decision to loan Andy Carroll out and the subsequent inability to find an adequate replacement. Hysteria has taken control, with Carroll transformed from a one-in-five striker into a world-class talent and Clint Dempsey, a talented goalscoring attacker,
metamorphosing into a future Ballon d’Or winner. Misplaced hysteria or not, the disappointment of the final 24 hours of the transfer window told against Arsenal, and has told ever since. The fans only perk up when 17-year-old Sterling is on the ball. Drifting out wide on the left, every touch is met with a murmur of anticipation from the Kop. A successful cross is followed by a cheer of approval; every awry trick or flick met with appreciative applause.
BENITEZ’S YOUTH POLICY Raheem Sterling looks a superstar
Sterling is as quick as he is clever, as technically-gifted as he is hard-working. It’s a rare commodity to see a young English player (albeit one who moved from Jamaica when he was five) who possesses technique and intelligence to supplement raw ability. The 17-yearold, plucked from QPR’s youth system in 2010, is a by-product of the advice Benitez passed on to Borrell: the English players must be developed. Much like how Barcelona’s success at that level is founded upon the Catalan contingent, so too must Liverpool’s be based on homegrown players. A look at their squad confirms that mentality. Though Jordan Henderson was plucked from Sunderland for a hefty fee, he is still only 22 – a fact easily forgotten given he made more appearances than any other Liverpool player last season, as well as being a full England international who moonlights as Under-21 captain. His midfield partner Jonjo Shelvey, 20, has made over 40 appearances for Liverpool already, but while he has the athleticism
and ability to succeed, he must improve his intelligence and try not to cripple the opposition with his reckless tackles. Only injuries have stopped the 22-year-old Martin Kelly from playing more than 50odd games for his club. Others who have not featured as regularly also give cause for optimism. Jack Robinson is a cultured left back; Jon Flanagan, in contrast, is a nononsense right back. Adam Morgan scored 18 goals in 16 games at youth level, while 15-year-old Jerome Sinclair impressed in a friendly against a European heavyweight so much the opposition tried to buy him at the fulltime whistle. There are non-English players too: Samed Yesil is an exciting acquisition from Leverkusen, and Spanish magician Suso is the standout. With the world at his feet, only his attitude can trip him up. But for all the ornate adjectives and flamboyant descriptions, there is no guarantee of success. Liverpool thought they had a youth set-up ready to conquer the world after winning back-to-
back FA Youth Cups in 2006 and 2007, but those teams now look similar to Garth Crooks’ League Two Team of the Week. The changes over the past five years, however, bring hope. No longer do the youngsters look to win trophies as youth level; it is development and progression that is the true prize. A lot of that is down to an exmanager, but the current one is on the same wavelength it seems. “The vision is simple – to win the most trophies we can,” said Brendan Rodgers. “That’s the bigger picture. The second is to play attractive, attacking football, and the third is to bring through as many of the young players as we possibly can.” There’s no guarantee or trophies or attractive, attacking football, but he does have some good young players to bring through. Maybe Clint Dempsey won’t be needed after all. nRead more from Kristian in the Liverpool section at soccernet.espn. go.com or lifesapitch.co.uk
IT’S OPEN S
JOHN W HENRY’S OPEN LETTER TO LIVERPOOL SUPPORTERS, W
I am as disappointed as anyone connected with Liverpool FC that we were unable to add further to our strike force in this summer transfer window, but that was not through any lack of desire or effort on the part of all of those involved. They pushed hard in the final days of the transfer window on a number of forward targets and it is unfortunate that on this occasion we were unable to conclude acceptable deals to bring those targets in. But a summer window which brought in three young, but significantly talented starters in Joe Allen, Nuri Sahin and Fabio Borini as well as two exciting young potential stars of the future Samed Yesil and Oussama Assaidi - could hardly be deemed a failure as we build for the future. Nor should anyone minimise the importance of keeping our best players during this window. We successfully retained Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Luis Suarez. We greatly appreciate their faith and belief in the club. And we successfully negotiated new, long-term contracts with Luis and with Martin. No one should doubt our commitment to the club. In Brendan Rodgers we have a talented young manager and we have valued highly his judgement about the make-up of the squad. This is a work in progress. It will take time for Brendan to instill his philosophy into the squad and build exactly what he needs for the long term. The transfer policy was not about cutting costs. It was - and will be in the future - about getting maximum value for what is spent so that we can build quality and depth. We are avowed proponents of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play agenda that was this week reiterated by Mr Platini - something we heartily applaud. We must comply with Financial Fair Play guidelines that ensure spending is tied to income. We have been successful in improving the commercial side of the club and the monies generated going
S, WRITTEN IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE TRANSFER WINDOW Andy Carroll went but nobody came in
forward will give us greater spending power in the coming years. We are still in the process of reversing the errors of previous regimes. It will not happen overnight. It has been compounded by our own mistakes in a difficult first two years of ownership. It has been a harsh education, but make no mistake, the club is healthier today than when we took over. Spending is not merely about buying talent. Our ambitions do not lie in cementing a mid-table place with expensive, short-term quick fixes that will only contribute for a couple of years. Our emphasis will be on developing our own players using the skills of an increasingly impressive coaching team. Much thought and investment already have gone into developing a selfsustaining pool of youngsters imbued in the club’s traditions. That ethos is to win. We will invest to succeed. But we will not mortgage the future with risky spending. After almost two years at Anfield, we are close to having the system we need in place. The transfer window may not have been perfect but we are not just looking at the next 16 weeks until we can buy again: we are looking at the next 16 years and beyond. These are the first steps in restoring one of the world’s great clubs to its proper status. It will not be easy, it will not be perfect, but there is a clear vision at work. We will build and grow from within, buy prudently and cleverly and never again waste resources on inflated transfer fees and unrealistic wages. We have no fear of spending and competing with the very best but we will not overpay for players. We will never place this club in the precarious position that we found it in when we took over at Anfield. This club should never again run up debts that threaten its existence. Most of all, we want to win. That ambition drives every decision. It is the Liverpool way. We can and will generate the revenues to achieve that aim. There will be short-term setbacks from time to
time, but we believe we have the right people in place to bring more glory to Anfield. Finally, I can say with authority that our ownership is not about profit. Contrary to popular opinion, owners rarely get involved in sports in order to generate cash. They generally get involved with a club in order to compete and work for the benefit of their club. It’s often difficult. In our case we work every day in order to generate revenues to improve the club. We have only one driving ambition at Liverpool and that is the quest to win the Premier League playing the kind of football our supporters want to see. That will only occur if we do absolutely the right things to build the club in a way that makes sense for supporters, for us and for those who will follow us. We will deliver what every long-term supporter of Liverpool Football Club aches for.
GARETH ROBERTS’ OPEN LETTER TO JOHN HENRY ON WHY Y
It’s dead simple, John. Liverpool haven’t acted like a club here and for us fans that’s concerning. We see the manager being crystal clear about the fact that he wouldn’t have let Andy Carroll go if he didn’t think a goalscorer was coming in. Then we see Jonathan Norcroft in the Sunday Times regurgitating the boardroom version of events, namely that we’ll buy in January to rectify the problem; that it’s only a short-term problem and that Rodgers’ task is to achieve Champions League football by 2015. Well that’s sound, but football doesn’t really work like that. We’re already seeing the folly of lessening the options up front in August - the team doesn’t score enough goals. And when you don’t score enough goals that’s precisely how you’ll end up “cementing a mid-table place.” Long-term vision is great, but what about the here and now? Another year out of the higher reaches of the league means that sales pitch to new players becomes that ever bit harder. Theo Walcott keeps getting mentioned. Why would he swap the top four and the Champions League for mediocrity? And why has the ambition that saw Kenny Dalglish tasked with reaching the Champions League now altered to finishing fourth in three years? What kind of message does that send out? We read also from Norcroft that we missed out on Clint Dempsey – a player that clearly wanted to come, a player that the manager clearly wanted to sign – because of some kind of price v age policy that is now being enforced at Liverpool. If you “value highly” Rodgers’ “judgement about the make-up of the squad” then the decision was simple. Cough up the couple of million. Bite the bullet. Put more goals in the side and don’t kill the feel-good factor. Then there’s the Danny Sturridge bit in Norcroft’s report. That it was down to Rodgers that we didn’t buy him for £15m. That the manager scuppered it because he wanted a try-before-you-buy loan rather than a permanent deal. It’s fairly clear there’s been some board/ manager friction, those “operational issues we need to sort out” Rodgers mentioned. No doubt that happens all the time at football clubs but it’s not something that should be played out in public, is it?
Y YOU NEED MORE THAN A CALCULATOR TO WIN TROPHIES Comolli seems to be getting the blame for all the club’s ills
And why did our options for a striker come down to two players? It’s hard for us to fathom, John. In the Liverpool Echo, too, we read about just how bad Damien Comolli was last year. Conveniently, this article appeared on September 1, just after the transfer deadline day debacle. It ran through the signings of last summer, ridiculing the fees paid and stressed how this year’s dealings were a case of once bitten, twice shy. Ridiculously, it included this line: “When Sunderland contemplated losing Henderson last summer, Steve Bruce told his chairman he believed they could get £4million for him. Imagine his delight when Comolli offered £14million and then swiftly improved that bid to £16million.” Now the Echo might be buying that, but I’m not. If reporters are being pointed to Steve Bruce stories regarding Henderson, how about this one? “No way is £20 million enough for Jordan Henderson,” said Bruce. “But if Real Madrid come in and offer £30 million for Jordan then you have a problem. Players want to improve and go to a so-called bigger club.” Thing is, if Comolli was awful at his job, whose fault is that? You hired him. You listened to the advice of a baseball man, Billy Beane, to get him on board. You even promoted him! Here’s what you said about him when you promoted him: “I am delighted to announce the promotion of Damien Comolli to Director of Football. In the short time that Damien has been at the Club, he has impressed us greatly with his knowledge of the sport, his work ethic and his incisive intelligence. “He is a clear thinker and understands exactly what is needed to form a longterm, consistent approach with the philosophy we all share here. He has a track record of identifying young talent and has already made significant contributions to the first team and academy. “Damien played a leading role in our January transfer window activity with the recruitment of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. These two additions will play a significant role in the future of the Club “All of us at Liverpool Football Club who have been working on a day-to-day basis with Damien believe he will be a key
contributor for many, many years here as we build a football operation second to none.” You say “We are still in the process of reversing the errors of previous regimes.” I say it looks like us as fans and Rodgers as manager are paying the price for your error. The ‘previous regimes’ excuse is wearing thin – you’ve held the keys for two years, you’ve sweeped the decks staffwise. This is your vision that’s being played out. We’re grateful for the fact that you’re not Hicks and Gillett, but come on, that’s no great achievement. We need to aspire to more. Also, the buying kids thing. The age thing. Why is it so rigid a policy that we’re now facing four months of football short up front? There’s a lot to be said for an experienced head or two in the team. Give Gerard Houllier a bell and ask him about Gary McAllister. Buy yourself the 2001 season review DVD as well. So let’s move on to the costs. “The transfer policy was not about cutting costs. It was - and will be in the future - about getting maximum value for what is spent,” you say. Just a coincidence that we shaved 20odd million off the wage bill then. And value? Since when has football offered much of that? Ok, we can TRY to spend wisely – all clubs TRY to do that. But sometimes, you pay a bit more because a face fits surely? Shouldn’t the sporting side of things lead the business side of things – isn’t that the point of a football club? “We have no fear of spending and competing with the very best but we will not overpay for players,” you say. And here’s another problem – who defines what overpaying is? A stat man or a football man? This transfer panel we’ve heard about? What if everyone keeps disagreeing? What if we have more instances of the dallying that cost us at the end of August? How many more “short-term setbacks” do we have to brace ourselves for? “Most of all, we want to win.” So do we, John – now and in the future. And for the stats, maths and everything else there’s one basic equation that doesn’t add up. Less goalscorers equals less people scoring goals equals less matches won. You don’t need a calculator for that one. 43
THE ODDS ARE STACKED UP AGAINST US
JOHN ANTHONY DISCOVERS THAT BACKING THE REDS IS LIKE SENDING OFF THE ‘ADMIN FEE’ WHEN YOU’VE WON THE NIGERIAN LOTTERY
ETTING on football has boomed in recent years. Gone are the days when blokes chewing a woodbine filled in their pools coupon on a Wednesday – football is catching up with the horses when it comes to punting. And it should be a lot easier to win than the gee-gees. After all, there’s no cheating in football is there (not that there is in horse racing your honour). And there’s only ever three outcomes – a team can win, lose or draw – they can’t get boxed in on the rail in a 5f sprint at Chester when they only have to come third for you to win four grand on the placepot (I’m not bitter, honest). But rather than just sticking to singles and accumulating small amounts every time, most football punters want a big return for their money. You want to land the 50-1 about Steven Gerrard scoring the first goal in a 2-1 win, rather than waiting for a hundred 1-2 shots to come in. You should treat bets like that much like entering a raffle. You know you’re not likely to win, but it’s worth a quid just for the hell of it. But last year you would have been better backing against the Harlem Globetrotters rather than betting on Liverpool. The Reds were the worst performing team in 2011/12. Backing against Liverpool was the way to make money last season – throwing a tenner on whoever we were playing in the league made a profit of just under £250! At the opposite end of the scale, Wigan were the team to back. A tenner on all their games made a profit of £250
Jordan Henderson was one of the better bets for first scorer
as well. So just by backing against Liverpool and for Wigan, you would have made £500 – without even delving into the world of first goalscorer and the other ‘exotic’ bets. There are pitfalls when backing the Reds. One of the main ones is our inability to come from behind in games. Last season, Liverpool went behind in 16 league games and managed to win just one of them – the third poorest
record in the division. To underline the inability to turn games around, only three finished as draws. So don’t be tempted by long odds if we go a goal down. To make matters worse, in the nine away games where we went 1-0 down, we lost all of them – and only scored two goals. A pathetic effort but if you’re prepared to bet against your own team a profitable thing to know.
BETTING ON THE REDS If you’ve backed Liverpool lately, you’ve waved goodbye to your dough
Looking at more positive facts, trying to get the first goalscorer is a popular bet but few people keep track of who actually scores the most first goals. For Liverpool last season the main man was Luis Suarez with five. Then it was Maxi with three, Craig Bellamy with three, Andy Carroll with two, Jordan Henderson with two and Steven Gerrard with two. Given that three of the top four have left the club, it’s a worry where the goals will come from. And that five for Luis Suarez is on the low side, considering he’ll usually be around a 5-1 shot to get the first goal. Of the list above, Jordan Henderson would be the most lucrative as you’d expect to see him around 20-1 to get the first goal. Looking at other teams, Clint Dempsey managed to open the scoring seven times for Fulham last term but his move to Spurs might mean he’s too short a price. But if he’s 6-1 or better, on law of averages you would make money from
following him to get the first goal. The leading first scorer was Robin Van Persie with 10, with Sergio Aguero on eight. The bookies will take no chances with those two. Looking at correct scores, although goals may be at a premium for us, our most consistent home scoreline last season was a 3-0 win. It happened four times but considering that it would normally be something around a 10-1 shot, you would have made a significant profit from backing that scoreline blind each week. On the away front, we lost 3-1 three times so that would have been the score to back if you could face picking up cash after that scoreline. The double result is another bet that’s getting more popular. With this, you try to predict who’ll be winning at half-time and full-time. The bet is particularly useful when we’re playing one of the “smaller” teams and are odds-on – you can normally get better odds this way. Again looking at league games last
season, Liverpool only managed to lead at half-time and full-time four times at Anfield – a shocking effort. You would have made a decent profit just by backing it to be a draw at halftime and full-time in home games as that happened five times. Depending on the opposition that’s normally around a 6-1 shot so happening five times in 19 games is good news betting-wise. As we saw earlier, if Liverpool are losing at half-time there is absolutely no point in backing them to win the match – it didn’t happen once last season! And we only fought back and got a draw twice when we were losing at the break and those were both at Anfield. So I started this article full of hope of finding great angles to make pots of money backing Liverpool. Sadly, I can only find ways of cashing in on the fact that we are massively overbet so there is almost always value in opposing the Reds. Let’s hope that’s another thing that changes under Brendan Rodgers this season.
EY MATE, DOES THIS TRAIN STOP IN MAKHACHKALA? THE REDS FACE SOME INTERESTING TRIPS IN THIS YEAR’S EUROPA LEAGUE, RECKONS MARK JONES
Carra and Enrique look thrilled before the kick-off in Bern 46
CTOBER 4th and December 6th will be heady days at Casa del Roy Hodgson. Two clubs close to what passes for Roy’s heart will meet on those dates in the Europa League group stages, where Udinese and Liverpool – who Roy led to ninth four months into a Serie A season before getting sacked and to a famous 1-0 win at Bolton respectively – will be setting off on what they’ll hope to be a glorious, no doubt somehow Hodgsonaided journey to the ﬁnal in Amsterdam. The mega rich, Guus Hiddink-managed, Samuel Eto’o-inspired Russians Anzhi Makhachkala and Switzerland’s Young Boys – steady now – make up the rest of Group A as the group stages of the continent’s most peculiar tournament get underway, with the question facing Brendan Rodgers one of just how he can rotate a squad which already looks thinner than London Fashion Week. Somewhat paradoxically, Hodgson probably got the group stages right the last time the Reds were in Europe, when he used the matches to give valuable experience to the likes of Martin Kelly, Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey, who all beneﬁtted from it in the long run. Results wise, Hodgson’s sterile, uglier-than-the-purple-third-kit draws at Utrecht, Napoli and Steaua Bucharest weren’t remembered fondly by anyone but the man himself, but they were achieved with an array of team changes to a squad which was supporting the likes of Paul Konchesky, Milan Jovanovic and David Ngog while also propping up Christian Poulsen. The solitary points picked up on those trips meant that the Reds only needed to win two of the three home group games to pretty much be sure of progress, with those victories coming in convincing fashion against Steaua and then when Steven Gerrard climbed off the bench at half-time to silence the delightful visiting fans from Naples. Those 45 minutes represented his only appearance in Europe that season, and his last since the Gomel ﬁrst leg in July. This time around the intriguing selection decisions facing Rodgers going into the competition again focus on the squad players, only now quite a few of those players are at the other end of their career scale. Mind you, we saw from the opener against Young Boys that we’ll be seeing some of our own youngsters too. It’s safe to assume that Jamie Carragher will be seen more often in this competition than anywhere else throughout the campaign, whilst we can only hope that the same rings true in the case of Joe Cole.
Andre Wisdom made a big impact against Young Boys
The Europa League also appears to be the ideal setting to road test the great Stewart Downing left-back experiment. Jordan Henderson, Oussama Assaidi, Jon Flanagan, Jack Robinson and Adam Morgan are others likely to beneﬁt from the forays into Europe, but with the only really long haul trip coming with early November’s match away at Anzhi – who mercifully will be playing their home matches in Moscow and not the gun-friendly Dagestan – Rodgers could opt to play stronger XIs more often than many would imagine. That Anzhi game comes in the middle of league matches at home to Newcastle and away to Chelsea though, with the game away to Udinese taking place before a tricky visit to West Ham. Fixtures such as those surely have to take precedence over anything else
during this most unclear of seasons, and so the Europa League looks like it’ll once again have to be handled with care. The obvious squad deﬁciencies highlighted by Clint Dempsey’s appearance in a Tottenham shirt are likely to lead to calls for Rodgers to pay little to no attention to the tournament, but he might be able to ﬁnd unlikely inspiration in the form of Hodgson and manage his resources cleverly to ensure that the group stages are escaped with little to no alarm. Copying Hodgson wouldn’t have been high on the Rodgers agenda when he took the job in the summer, but it might just be what’s needed now. As long as the comparisons start and end there, then Amsterdam could await for a refreshed Reds in the New Year.
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Yeah, we know about your dinner with Halsey. We know ALL about your dinner with Haljsey... Halsey
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