A recent inquest into a fatal incident that occurred over twenty years ago during an FA Cup (football) game at Hillsborough Stadium has led to British Prime Minister David Cameron apologising in parliament, according to a report on the ABC. Prior to the inquest, the deaths of 96 and injuries suffered by 766 spectators at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989 had been blamed on over-enthusiastic, intoxicated and “ticketless” fans that allegedly ignored police attempts to prevent entry into the stadium. Due to the potentially dangerous build-up of fans outside of the stadium prior to the match, Chief Superintendent Duckenfield had demanded that an exit gate be opened. This gate allowed hundreds of spectators into what was an “already overcrowded”, enclosed, unmanned area, causing a crash barrier to break. Police reports indicated that Duckenfield claimed spectators had simply rushed through the gate. However ‘The Taylor Report’, which documented the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s recent investigation, revealed that the venue did not meet minimum safety requirements and that poor planning had been undertaken by emergency services. The report suggested that these factors, not hooliganism, were to blame for the fatalities. The Guardian reported that police were found to have been negligent in allowing people entry through the gate and that crowd management plans had been insufficient. Senior police were also found to have rewritten 116 of the 164 witness statements from the incident so as to ensure that this would not be revealed to the public. The Independent Panel additionally found that had prompt medical treatment been administered, up to 41 of the fatalities may have been prevented.
While the Taylor Report’s findings have prompted the elimination of standing terraces at major stadiums in Wales, England and Scotland, the disastrous outcome of the FA Cup game highlights a crucial need for adherence to rigorous safety standards for public venues. Venue managers, security personnel, police and emergency services all have a role to play in ensuring that incidents of this nature are prevented in the future.