As a native of that fair city, a life long Liverpool FC supporter and current season ticket holder I needed a few days to think about the revelations of the past few days.
Firstly the sadness of the families of the 96 victims, they have rightly identified that they will always be the losers because their family members are simply never coming back. For them the significance of what they have achieved will forever be undermined by that fact. I hope they can come to realise just what they have accomplished.
As a nation we stood and applauded the dedication and commitment of Olympic athletes – those personal qualities pale into insignificance compared to the dignity, perseverance and sheer tenacity to fight for 23 years for acknowledgement of a simple truth that has, in reality, long been known. This was a fight not supported by lottery funding to achieve personal glory but against every conceivable obstacle officialdom could put in the way.
To think this happened in my life time, in the UK is quite staggering and more than a little saddening. The cover up, by multiple public bodies, the Ambulance service perhaps more alarming in some ways than that of the Police. The sheer lack of respect for the health and well being of the common man seems to belong to a different age but it really was 1989. Not 1809.
I don’t actually subscribe to the view that there was a conspiracy from the top of government co-ordinating all of this, although I understand that viewpoint, there was undoubtedly a wide spread anti-football mentality across many elements of society at that time, undoubtedly fuelled by an anti football government / Prime Minister and the then all too cosy media willing to join in.
Margaret Thatcher once asked the FA Chairman Bert Millichip: “What are you doing to keep our country free from your hooligans?” to which he replied (and deserves unending credit for) : “What are you doing to keep your hooligans out of my game?”
Thatcher had “previous” with ill judged comments about Heysel. Unlike Hillsborough a tiny, tiny minority of Liverpool fans were not blameless at Heysel (7 served lengthy prison sentences) but to read some reports you would think the 39 Juventus fans died in hand to hand fighting with Liverpool fans rather than poor crowd segratation, a collapsed wall and trampled to death in the resulting panic. This in an elderly stadium not fit for purpose and event managed by a policeman who was attending his first football match.
There was a fan was arrested for possession of a firearm (who takes a gun to a football match?) unfortunately for the anti-Liverpool band wagon brigade it was an Italian Juventus fan so not widely reported.
Heysel occurred days after the Bradford Stadium fire where another 56 football fans died, another defective stadium with poor regard for the safety provision of fans. Hillsborough, Heysel and Bradford; collectively indicative of how supporters were regarded and treated in the 80’s.
For the families it is of course completley understandable that it’s too little too late but for the likes of Kelvin McKenzie to have to finally face facts and publicly admit they were wrong is a stunning turnaround. In McKenzie’s case I seriously hope it affects his ability to extract appearance money from the BBC as they must surely now realise what a completely morally bankrupt individual he is.
This because he has of course long known he was wrong but, in my opinion, basked safe in the knowledge that the establishment ranks would close around him and that ordinary families would not have the bravery, tenacity or perseverance to fight every hindrance, cross every official hurdle and defy endless negative publicity from a biased media he helped control (for a while) to expose his lies, despicable and incompetent reporting.
He forgot the families had one unassailable weapon in their arsenal – The Truth. Whilst it took a shameful 23 years The Truth eventually overcame all.
To the 96 of Hillsborough, and the 39 victims of Heysel and 56 of Bradford, equally let down by that era of officialdom RIP YNWA.
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