The Hillsborough disaster was a human crush at Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield, England, on 15 April 1989, during the 1988–89 FA Cup semi-final game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. With 96 fatalities and 766 injured it is the worst disaster in British sporting history, and remains one of the worst recorded football disasters worldwide.
The crush occurred in the two standing only central pens in the Leppings Lane stand, allocated to Liverpool supporters. In the minutes before the match’s kick-off, the central pens were already being disproportionately filled with supporters, while pens on either side were much more empty. No coordinated action was ordered to direct supporters to these side pens. Shortly before kick-off, in an attempt to ease overcrowding outside the entrance turnstiles, the police match commander chief superintendent David Duckenfield ordered an exit gate to be opened, leading to an influx of even more supporters to the already overcrowded central pens.
The disaster resulted in a number of safety improvements in the largest football grounds, notably the elimination of fenced standing terraces in favour of all-seater stadiums in the top two tiers of English football. The disaster led to a great deal of negative press about Liverpool supporters who had attended the match that day, as police fed false stories to the press suggesting that hooliganism and drinking by Liverpool supporters was the root cause. The headline “The Truth”, suggesting fans pick pocketed the dead and urinated on police, appeared in the national tabloid newspaper The Sun. Blame to Liverpool fans persisted even after the Taylor Report of 1990, which found the main reason for the disaster was a failure of control by South Yorkshire Police (SYP). The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) ruled there was no evidence to justify prosecution against individuals or institutions.
The first coroner’s inquest into the Hillsborough disaster, the Popper inquest, completed in 1991, ruled all deaths on the day as accidental. At the time it was the longest inquest in British history. Families strongly rejected Popper’s findings, and their fight to have the matter re-opened persisted for decades. New evidence claimed by controversial TV documentary Hillsborough in 1996 failed to convince authorities, with Lord Justice Stuart-Smith concluding in 1997 there was no justification for a new inquiry. Private prosecutions against Duckenfield and his deputy Bernard Murray failed in 2000.
A turning point came in 2009 with the formation of the Hillsborough Independent Panel to review all evidence. Reporting in 2012, it confirmed Taylor’s 1990 criticisms, while also revealing new details around the extent of the police efforts to shift blame, the role of other emergency services, and the error of the first coroner’s inquest. The results of the panel saw findings of accidental death quashed, prompting creation of a new coroner’s inquest. It also produced two criminal investigations led by police in 2012: Operation Resolve to look into the causes of the disaster, and an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to examine actions by police in the aftermath.
The Goldring coroner’s inquest, lasting from 1 April 2014 to 26 April 2016, is the longest jury case in British history and succeeded the Popper inquest as Britain’s longest coroner’s inquest. It returned a verdict that the supporters were unlawfully killed due to grossly negligent failures by police and ambulance services to fulfill their duty of care to the supporters. The inquest also found that the design of the stadium contributed to the crush, and that supporters were not to blame for the dangerous conditions. For the actions of his force during the second inquest, the SYP chief constable David Crompton was suspended. Two days after the verdict, a private prosecution was brought on behalf of hundreds of relatives against both SYP and the West Midlands Police force (who took statements from the SYP), alleging a concerted cover-up designed to shift blame away from the police.
Read more at the Hillsborough Wikipedia Page