In one of the longest running stories in the soccer world, justice has finally been given to the families, loved ones, and beloved club of the 96 people that passed away in stadium crush in 1989. For those that have followed the continuing saga, the nuances and details are enormous in size and scope, while the situation still carries the pain of an open wound. This article is not meant to cover them all, but to inform you about something that has plagued one of England’s most famous clubs and something that is now ingrained in soccer history. If you’ve ever wondered why Liverpool and Everton always seem to have black bands on their sleeves or what some of the symbolism is for most of Liverpool’s kit logos, we’ve got you covered.
The story starts in 1989, when Liverpool traveled to Hillsborough for an FA Cup Semi-Final match with Nottingham Forest. With fairly cheap tickets and the prospect of Liverpool success on the horizon, Liverpool had a strong level of away support. As fans filed in, they were split by in half with some going into a large pen on one side, and the others onto the side. At Hillsborough, the stands were separated from the field by a large cage fence, which was a common occurrence at pitches in this era. However, the Hillsborough ground was unprepared for the situation that lay ahead. Because of the old nature of the ground, fans were having difficulty entering into the ground. Despite this, the two pens were already very full of supporters. Still, the head of the police force decided to make it where fans could enter though an area usually used for exiting, allowing more fans to pour into an area that was already overcrowded.
In the following moments would occur the worst stadium-related disaster in England’s history, and 96 Liverpool supporters would lose their lives. Pressed against the fences of the overfilled pens, Liverpool’s history was changed forever.
This is only the story of the tragedy, but the story would drag on for 26 more years of suffering for anyone associated with the disaster. Since 1989, the police force, a mass of the media, and many others laid the fault for the situation solely at the feet of the Liverpool fan-base. The reasons ranged from the fans being overzealous and rowdy, to the fans being intoxicated…but they all placed the blame firmly at the feet of those supporting the reds at the semi-final. For 26 years, Liverpool and her fans have attempted to prove that the Anfield faithful had nothing to do with the tragedy…and, 26 years later, justice has finally been served. In 2012, an independent panel uncovered untold information that found that the fans held none of the blame for what happened that day, causing an actual inquest into what happened.
The inquest uncovered several cover-ups, media collusion, and a wealth of lies. The truth turned out to be that the police force in charge of the semi-final fixture was not adequately prepared for the situation, made several costly errors, and was solely to blame. Not only did they cause the crush, but there are multiple reports that the police were also incredibly insensitive, crass, and ineffective while dealing with the aftermath. Families of people killed in the crush were not allowed to touch their loved ones, were forced to identify bodies in a run-down gym, and were immediately asked questions to help shift the narrative of blame away from the police. It’s a tragic story, and one that, finally, has a sunny ending.
Only a few days ago, the court returned a verdict completely absolving the fans, but also confirmed that the fault lies firmly with decisions made by the police force at the game. The longest running case in England’s history is now over, and justice has finally been served. The court may proceed with criminal hearings towards the police responsible, but the truth and justice that has eluded Liverpool for so long has finally won out.