English Premiership

Hillsborough, 20 years on

2009-04-10 06:39
A Liverpool fan pays tribute to the 96 people who died on April 15, 1989. (AFP)

Paris - It would be remembered as one of the blackest days in British sport, but Saturday April 15, 1989, began as a perfect day for a game of football.

Bright blue skies greeted fans of Liverpool and Nottingham Forest who had travelled to the northern industrial city of Sheffield for an FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough, home of Sheffield Wednesday.

Mingled with the anticipation was a sense of deja vu.

The sides had met at the same ground at the same stage of the previous season's competition, Liverpool winning 2-1.

Despite bringing far more supporters, Liverpool were given the small Leppings Lane stand to the west of the stadium, with the larger Spion Kop behind the opposite goal taken over by Forest fans who had journeyed to the ground from the south.

The terraces behind the goal at the Leppings Lane end were split into pens, and by 2.30pm pens three and four, directly behind the goal, were already heaving with supporters.

"Looking around, I could see that fans older and clearly more seasoned than me were getting edgy," Liverpool fan and survivor Adrian Tempany told The Observer newspaper.

Roadworks had held up some Liverpool fans en route to the game, and with kick-off fast approaching thousands of supporters were stuck outside the turnstiles, pressing to get in.

This created a bottleneck effect and when it became clear that fans were in real danger of being hurt, police Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield made the fateful call to open Gate C in the security wall and release the pressure on those stuck outside.

The fans poured in, sweeping through the concourse that led to the terraces and straight into the already crowded pens behind the goal.

The result was catastrophic.

Penned in by the perimeter fencing at the front of the stand, 96 people in pens three and four were crushed to death.

"Within feet of me people were standing dead, bolt upright," Tempany said.

"The only comfort I could find was that thousands of people who were still alive were now shouting for help, screaming, 'There are people dead in here!'"

Oblivious to the unfolding tragedy, police allowed the game to kick off as scheduled at three o'clock.

"Four minutes into the game I had a shot that hit the crossbar," remembered Liverpool striker Peter Beardsley.

"Naturally, at the time I was disappointed. In hindsight, it was good that I didn't score, because people outside the ground heard the roar when I hit the bar and tried even harder to get into the terraces."

Very quickly, though, it became apparent that something had gone tragically wrong, as fans desperately sought to haul themselves over the fence or clamber into the tier above.

At six minutes past three the match was brought to a halt by the referee.

Finally police opened a gate in the perimeter fence, which separated the spectators from the pitch, and the pressure in the pens was eased.

Breathless fans spilled onto the grass and were soon ferrying their gravely injured friends across the pitch on makeshift stretchers fashioned from advertising hoardings.

Only one ambulance was allowed onto the pitch by the police, who were heavily criticised by Lord Justice Taylor in his report into the disaster for their failure to react to the situation.

The legacy of the Taylor Report would be the all-seater stadia that would one day make England the envy of the footballing world, but for those touched by the tragedy, the wounds would take much longer to heal.

NEXT ON SPORT24X

Two late goals save Arsenal

2014-08-23 20:33

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Fixtures
24 August 2014
Hull City v Stoke City, The KC Stadium 14:30
Tottenham Hotspur v Queens Park Rangers, White Hart Lane 14:30
Sunderland v Manchester United, Stadium of Light 17:00
25 August 2014
Manchester City v Liverpool, Etihad Stadium 21:00
30 August 2014
Burnley v Manchester United, Turf Moor 13:45
West Ham United v Southampton, Boleyn Ground 16:00
Manchester City v Stoke City, Etihad Stadium 16:00
Swansea City v West Bromwich Albion, Liberty Stadium 16:00
Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland, Loftus Road Stadium 16:00
Newcastle United v Crystal Palace, St. James' Park 16:00
Everton v Chelsea, Goodison Park 18:30
Logs
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team
Vote

How will Manchester United fare in next season's English Premiership under Louis van Gaal?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Featured Blog

Dave ask if you would like to meet your local sports heroes and stand the chance to win prizes to the value of over R40 000.

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

Newsletters Sign up for the Morning Glory, Super 15 and Soccer newsletters

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

Mobile Sport24 on your mobile phone - WAP, alerts, downloads, services

Forum Have your Say on Sport24's brand new Forum!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

iPhone Latest Sport24 news on your iPhone

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

Blogs Yes your opinion counts. Get it out there

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.