13 September 2012 08:27
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has welcomed the latest findings surrounding the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.
At an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, congestion outside the stadium saw police open the gates and as a result, a deadly crush saw 96 fans die, while over 700 more were badly injured inside the ground.
To their disgust, Liverpool fans have been blamed for the horrific scenes for 23 years, with authorities citing drunk and ticketless supporters as the cause of the incident.
Tabloid newspaper, The Sun, took things further and accused fans of the Anfield outfit of picking the pockets of victims and urinating on and fighting with police trying to save troubled fans, allegations that were never founded.
Liverpool fans have fought for justice ever since and as a result, The Sun is largely boycotted on Merseyside.
The allegations tarnished the name of Liverpool fans though, with their battle for justice continuing until British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his deep sympathy to the victims and their families on Wednesday.
Cameron’s comments were based on the release of a new, independent report that took over two years to compile.
The report found ‘clear and repeated evidence of failures in leadership and emergency response coordination’ while a staggering 116 witness statements – largely from police who worked on the day – were amended to shift the blame from the police and onto the fans.
It also found that 41 of the 96 lives lost could have been saved if emergency workers, who were present, were allowed to access the Liverpool fans.
Only one ambulance was allowed onto the Sheffield ground despite the clearly distressful situation, as fans were forced to help one another in a bid to stay alive.
The report also found that the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service had amended statements from their officers, deflecting criticism that was originally aimed at the police.
The 392-page report, and the apology that followed, will finally help the city move on from the most tragic day in English football.
And while it will never be forgotten, Gerrard – whose 10-year-old cousin died in the disaster – welcomed the new developments in the case with a brief statement on the club’s website, while he also condemned those involved in covering up the issue.
“The courage and dignity shown by the Hillsborough families and survivors is an example to all of us,” Gerrard said.
“For 23 years they have fought for truth and justice on behalf of the victims and survivors of this terrible tragedy and all Liverpool supporters.
“Victims and survivors suffered not just on April 15, 1989 in Sheffield, but for over two decades afterwards with the shameful slandering of their actions by people who abused their position and power.
“Speaking as someone whose family directly suffered, I know the pain and hurt will remain.
“However, I hope that today’s report helps bring some comfort, now that everyone knows what happened on that day.”