Hillsborough disaster

Hillsborough disaster
Hillsborough disaster main.jpg
The Leppings Lane end inside Hillsborough Stadium during the disaster (goalposts centre)
Date15 April 1989 (1989-04-15)
Time14:00–16:10 GMT
VenueHillsborough Stadium
LocationSheffield, South Yorkshire, England
Coordinates53°24′41″N 1°30′06″W / 53°24′41″N 1°30′06″W / 53.4115; -1.5016
TypeHuman crush
CauseOvercrowding in central pens of stand
Deaths96 (94 on 15 April 1989)
Non-fatal injuries766

The Hillsborough disaster was a fatal crush of people during an FA Cup football match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England, on 15 April 1989. With 96 fatalities and 766 injuries, it remains the worst disaster in British sporting history.[1] The crush occurred in the two standing-only central pens in the Leppings Lane stand, allocated to Liverpool supporters. Shortly before kick-off, in an attempt to ease overcrowding outside the entrance turnstiles, the police match commander, chief superintendent David Duckenfield, ordered exit gate C opened, leading to an influx of even more supporters to the pens.[2]

In the days and weeks following, police fed false stories to the press suggesting that hooliganism and drunkenness by Liverpool supporters were the causes of the disaster. Blaming of Liverpool fans persisted even after the Taylor Report of 1990, which found that the main cause was a failure of control by South Yorkshire Police (SYP).[3] Following the Taylor report, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) ruled there was no evidence to justify prosecution of any individuals or institutions.[3] The disaster also led to a number of safety improvements in the largest English football grounds, notably the elimination of fenced standing terraces in favour of all-seater stadiums in the top two tiers of English football.[4][5]

The first coroner's inquests into the Hillsborough disaster, completed in 1991, ruled all the deaths accidental.[6] Families rejected the findings,[3] and fought to have the case re-opened. In 1997, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith concluded that there was no justification for a new inquiry.[3] Private prosecutions brought by the Hillsborough Families Support Group against Duckenfield and his deputy Bernard Murray failed in 2000.[3]

In 2009, a Hillsborough Independent Panel was formed to review the evidence.[3][7] Reporting in 2012, it confirmed Taylor's 1990 criticisms and revealed details about the extent of police efforts to shift blame onto fans, the role of other emergency services, and the error of the first coroner's inquests.[7][8][9][10] The panel's report resulted in the previous findings of accidental death being quashed, and the creation of new coroner's inquests. It also produced two criminal investigations led by police in 2012: Operation Resolve to look into the causes of the disaster, and by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to examine actions by police in the aftermath.[11]

The second coroner's inquests were held from 1 April 2014 to 26 April 2016.[12] They ruled that the supporters were unlawfully killed due to grossly negligent failures by police and ambulance services to fulfil their duty of care.[2][3] The inquests also found that the design of the stadium contributed to the crush, and that supporters were not to blame for the dangerous conditions.[12] Public anger over the actions of their force during the second inquests led to the suspension of SYP chief constable David Crompton following the verdict.[13] In June 2017, six people were charged with various offences including manslaughter by gross negligence, misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice for their actions during and after the disaster. The Crown Prosecution Service subsequently dropped all charges against one of the defendants.

Before the disaster

The West Stand of Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough Stadium, where the disaster unfolded, seen two years later in 1991.


Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, the home of Sheffield Wednesday, was selected by the Football Association (FA) as a neutral venue to host the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest football clubs. Kick-off was scheduled for 3:00 pm on 15 April, and fans were advised to take up positions 15 minutes beforehand.[14]

At the time of the disaster, most English football stadiums had high steel fencing between the spectators and the playing field in response to pitch invasions. Hooliganism had affected the sport for some years, and was particularly virulent in England.[15] From 1974, when these security standards were put in place, crushes occurred in several English stadiums.[16]

A report by Eastwood & Partners for a safety certificate for the stadium in 1978 concluded that although it failed to meet the recommendations of the Green Guide, a guide to safety at sports grounds, the consequences were minor. It emphasised the general situation at Hillsborough was satisfactory compared with most grounds.[9]:67

Risks associated with confining fans in pens were highlighted by the Committee of Inquiry into Crowd Safety at Sports Grounds (the Popplewell inquiry) after the Bradford City stadium fire in May 1985. It made recommendations on the safety of crowds penned within fences,[17] including that "all exit gates should be manned at all times ... and capable of being opened immediately from the inside by anyone in an emergency".[18]

Previous incidents

Hillsborough hosted five FA Cup semi-finals in the 1980s. A crush occurred at the Leppings Lane end of the ground during the 1981 semi-final between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers after hundreds more spectators were permitted to enter the terrace than could safely be accommodated, resulting in 38 injuries, including broken arms, legs and ribs.[19] Police believed there had been a real chance of fatalities had swift action not been taken, and recommended the club reduce its capacity. In a post-match briefing to discuss the incident, Sheffield Wednesday chairman Bert McGee remarked: "Bollocks—no one would have been killed".[20][21] The incident nonetheless prompted Sheffield Wednesday to alter the layout at the Leppings Lane end, dividing the terrace into three separate pens to restrict sideways movement.[9] This 1981 change and other later changes to the stadium invalidated the stadium's safety certificate. The safety certificate was never renewed and the stated capacity of the stadium was never changed.[9][22] The terrace was divided into five pens when the club was promoted to the First Division in 1984, and a crush barrier near the access tunnel was removed in 1986 to improve the flow of fans entering and exiting the central enclosure.

After the crush in 1981, Hillsborough was not chosen to host an FA Cup semi-final for six years until 1987.[9] Serious overcrowding was observed at the 1987 quarter-final between Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City[23] and again during the semi-final between Coventry City and Leeds United at Hillsborough.[24] Leeds were assigned the Leppings Lane end. A Leeds fan described disorganisation at the turnstiles and no steward or police direction inside the stadium, resulting in the crowd in one enclosure becoming so compressed he was at times unable to raise and clap his hands.[24] Other accounts told of fans having to be pulled to safety from above.[9]

Liverpool and Nottingham Forest met in the semi-final at Hillsborough in 1988, and fans reported crushing at the Leppings Lane end. Liverpool lodged a complaint before the match in 1989. One supporter wrote to the Football Association and Minister for Sport complaining, "The whole area was packed solid to the point where it was impossible to move and where I, and others around me, felt considerable concern for personal safety".[25]

Yorkshire police command changes

Police presence at the previous year's FA Cup semi-final (also between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest and also at Hillsborough Stadium) had been overseen by Chief Superintendent Brian L. Mole.[26] Mole had supervised numerous police deployments at the stadium in the past. In October 1988 a probationary PC in Mole's F division, South Yorkshire was handcuffed, photographed, and stripped by fellow officers in a fake robbery, as a hazing prank. Four officers resigned and seven were disciplined over the incident. Chief Superintendent Mole himself was to be transferred to the Barnsley division for "career development reasons". The transfer was to be done with immediate effect on 27 March 1989.[27]

Meanwhile, Hillsborough was accepted as the FA Cup semi-final venue on 20 March 1989 by the Football Association.[26] The first planning meeting for the semi-final took place on 22 March and was attended by newly promoted Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, not by Mole. No known minutes exist of this meeting.[27] Although Mole could have been assigned the semi-final match's planning despite his transfer, that was not done. This left planning for the semi-final match to Duckenfield, who had never commanded a sell-out football match before, and who had "very little, if any" training or personal experience in how to do so.[28]

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Hillsboro faciəsi
Bahasa Indonesia: Tragedi Hillsborough
Nederlands: Hillsboroughramp
Simple English: Hillsborough disaster
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Katastrofa na Hillsboroughu