Heart wrenching, stomach churning viewing…
On 15th April 1989, three days before I celebrated my second birthday with jelly and ice cream, thousands of Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest fans travelled to Sheffield for an FA Cup semi final tie at Hillsborough, home of Sheffield Wednesday. Tragically 96 Liverpool fans never came home again. Dads, Mums, Sons, Daughters.
One of the reasons that the Hillsborough tragedy rocked the nation is that football is our national pastime. It is in our blood. Hundreds of thousands of football fans fill stadiums across England every weekend. An astonishing figure when considering the financial outlay and the clubs continued disdain towards supporters. The majority of people in this country either attend football matches regularly or know somebody that does. The rising dread that starts in the pit of the stomach when discussing Hillsborough, stems from the fact that it could have happened anywhere, and to any of us.
The powerful BBC documentary Hillsborough finally collects all the facts and presents them in a way that a mainstream audience can understand. There is a common misconception that South Yorkshire police made a mistake when opening a gate that directly led to the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans, and that is all that it was – a mistake. Whilst it is highly unlikely that the decision was made with any malice, in reality this is not the sole cause of the Liverpool fans outrage. The problem is what came afterwards.
Hillsborough shows that nobody took charge when the crushing started. It shows that the man who should have been in control of the situation was woefully unprepared (Nottinghamshire Forest anyone?). It shows that after the police had failed to instil any meaningful control over the situation they then began a cover up that would span years and cause untold heartache for the families and friends of the 96 victims. It shows the victims were let down and the victims families were treated appallingly in the immediate aftermath of the death of a loved one. Mostly, Hillsborough shows us the evil that those in power are capable of.
The footage of the disaster itself is obviously galling but when twinned with the disgusting treatment of the Liverpool fans from the police and the media, Hillsborough becomes an increasingly difficult watch. Some of the things that are brought to light in this excellent and exhaustive documentary have to be seen to be believed and anyone who doubts the level of corruption in the police force, both here and in America, should watch this film immediately.
The interviews with survivors are tragic but just as poignant are some of the interviews with police officers who were on duty, and have since been brave enough to step forward to help the truth come to light. The fact that their original statements were rejected by South Yorkshire police shows just how entrenched the corruption is within the force. This is brought to light time and time again during Daniel Gordan’s emotive documentary but never more so than when it is revealed that a high ranking officer specifically told those under his charge not to make notes in their notebook, an act of deliberate incompetence that is frightening in its ruthlessness.
There is an attitude in some quarters that Liverpool fans perhaps exaggerate the level of injustice in regards to the Hillsborough disaster but Hillsborough makes it very clear that the families of the victims were right to pursue those that were to blame for the deaths of 96 innocent people and those that conspired to cover it up.
Justice for the 96.