After 24 years, the Football Association will finally be investigated for their role in the Hillsborough disaster.
The country’s governing body decided the FA Cup semi-final tie with Nottingham Forest would be played at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium – despite the ground not having a valid safety certificate and requests from Liverpool FC following problems in recent years.
The FA had stopped using Hillsborough as a semi-final venue in 1981 after a serious crush during a match between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers, but reinstated it in 1987. Despite a series of modifications to the ground and to the terracing at the fateful Leppings Lane end, no new safety certificates were issued.
As we explained last year, The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that it is the prime responsibility of the event organiser (the FA) to protect the health, safety, and welfare of everyone working at, and attending the event.
Quotes in Thursday’s Independent newspaper from Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Jon Stoddart, who heads a 40 person team investigating the disaster following the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report a year ago, outlines that “a number of new lines of inquiry are being pursued in what is the biggest manslaughter investigation in British history”.
The Guardian explain that it isn’t just The FA who are being investigated, but also South Yorkshire Police and senior officers on duty when 96 people died at the Hillsborough football stadium on 15 April 1989.
Stoddart explained to The Independent:
“We have already identified a significant number of people within the stadium safety part of the work who we believe may have further information to give us. They haven’t previously been interviewed, or had statements taken.
“We are looking very much at not just the police, but at Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and the licensing authorities and the FA as well. And the engineers.
“It’s the biggest manslaughter investigation in the history of the English and Welsh police services.”
Stoddart is quoted in The Guardian:
“We are looking at unlawful killing; who is responsible for the deaths. Those 96 people went to Hillsborough to watch a football match and didn’t return home. We want to know what happened, how it happened and why, and who is responsible.
“Obviously we are looking at the command and control [of the 54,000 crowd at Hillsborough by South Yorkshire police] on 15 April. But clearly it is about more than just command and control and what happened with the emergency services’ response. It is about the safety of the stadium, certification, the planning and preparation, the engineering and design that went into the Leppings Lane end [where the 96 people died].”
Liverpool supporters have long campaigned for The FA to accept culpability for their role in the disaster that killed 96 supporters.
Charges against those found responsible could include manslaughter through gross negligence, perverting the course of justice, perjury, and, misleading journalists and media.
Justice will be served.