On April 15, 1989, one of the most horrific tragedies in the history of English football took place. 94 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at Sheffield Wednesday Hillsboro stadium during the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest. Two more victims died later.
The terrible events that took place in Hillsborough were the result of a series of gross mistakes made by unprofessional police officers who were unable to cope with the crowd of thoroughly drunk fans. The match was supposed to start at three o'clock in the afternoon, and the organizers, given the weak throughput of the stadium turnstiles, asked the fans of the meeting teams to come early. However, their request was not heard. Moreover, when there were about ten minutes left before the game, together with the fans who had tickets on hand, about four thousand of those who wanted to break into football for free came to the arena.
As a result, an unprecedented number of people accumulated in front of the turnstiles, free riders were turned back, they prevented others from passing control. The match had already begun and there were plenty of empty seats in the Liverpool stand. People outside the stadium began to chant "We want to go to football!" and pressed on those who stood in front of them. The first signs of a crush appeared. And then one of the senior police officers made a fateful decision. "Does everyone have tickets?" He asked. "Raise them!" When the fans complied with his demand, he, considering that there were not many free riders in the total mass, ordered his subordinates to open the gates and let everyone in without checking.
At the same second the referee's starting whistle sounded. The fans outside rushed into the central sector of the stand and pressed those who had settled there a long time ago, to the grating separating the spectators from the field. The police did not react immediately: it seemed to them that the fans decided to take the ranks closer to the lawn. The game continued, and people died from suffocation on the podium. Only in the sixth minute, suspecting something was wrong, the guards gave the referee the command to stop the match.
If only that was the end! Alas, there were still a lot of fans outside the stadium, who, not suspecting what was happening ahead, complicated the situation with their aggressive behavior. In addition, all the seats on the podium were standing, and tickets, respectively, were entrance tickets. So from the point of view of the police, the situation looked absurd. They refused to understand how there could be a crush on the podium, on the sides of which, in the area of the corner flags, there is plenty of free space. But the point was that everyone was trying to squeeze into a more convenient central sector for observing the game. Considering that, due to the mass of free riders, the number of fans significantly exceeded the permissible limits, those who came early were trapped.
The situation could be defused by the stewards, who were supposed to control the influx of people and, as one sector filled up, transfer fans to others. However, this was not done. Why? The question remained unanswered. Then the stewards claimed that they were doing their job, but the drunken crowd did not listen to them. The fans claimed that they hadn't seen anyone and went where they thought they needed. After the match was stopped, still not understanding what was happening, the police made a second mistake. They interpreted the attempts of the fans to climb the bars and save their lives as an organized breakthrough on the field, and began to drive the fans back with clubs. The law enforcement officers still did not understand how a crush could arise on an incompletely filled podium. After a couple of minutes, some of the ordinary police officers who were near the epicenter realized what was what and began to help the fans. However, the officers, located at a distance of at least fifty meters, gave a third erroneous command: everyone to move away from the grating, take up defensive positions and not let anyone through. They still thought that Liverpool fans were only getting on the pitch to run to the opposite podium and have a fight with the Nottingham Forest fans!
The already critical situation was aggravated by the lack of a sufficient number of medical personnel and stretchers at the stadium. The fans, desperate to get help, broke down the billboards, put their crippled comrades on them and tried to at least drag them to the center of the field, while the policemen lined up, following orders, beat the fans with truncheons. 94 fans died right in the stadium: the youngest of them was ten years old. Another 766 were injured, about three hundred of them were hospitalized. Four days later, the mournful list was replenished with another dead, and in March 1993, “Hillsborough” took his last victim: Tony Bland died, all this time did not come out of a coma ...
The investigation of the tragedy carried out at the state level did not reveal the perpetrators. The policemen justified themselves by saying that if they had not let people into the podium, there would have been much more victims - at the entrance to the stadium. In addition, many of them gave false testimony, tried to shield each other. The trial lasted several years, until the main accused - the officer who gave the order to open the gate - was released from responsibility for health reasons. But the tragedy could not have happened at all, if the police, seeing that they did not have time to make the fans pass to the stadium, would only ask to postpone the start of the match ...
However, the British authorities have learned some fundamental lessons from the events at Hillsborough. First, the British government ordered the clubs to abandon the so-called terraces, equip their stadiums with seating and sell tickets only with an indication of the row and place. And, secondly, it was decided to remove the fences separating the stands from the field, since under certain circumstances they posed a threat to the lives of fans.
Only 23 years later, on September 12, 2012, the report of an independent commission to investigate the circumstances of the tragedy at Hillsborough Stadium, which led to the death of 96 people, was published. And the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland James Cameron on behalf of the Government apologized to the families of the victims.