Ahead of the 240th Merseyside derby at Anfield this afternoon, Everton fans showed their solidarity with those affected by the Hillsborough tragedy.
In an act of solidarity with all those affected by the 1989 stadium disaster in Sheffield, representatives of the official Everton Football Club Fans’ Forum laid a wreath at the Hillsborough memorial at Anfield ahead of kickoff today.
The move comes after a particularly difficult week for those affected by the tragedy.
At the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Man City at Wembley last weekend, an attempt to hold a minute of silence to mark the 33rd anniversary of the tragedy was cut short by the referee because some City fans chanted through it.
Meanwhile, Liverpool’s victory over Man United was marred by vile chants, which included discredited slurs against Reds fans from the away end.
The behaviour prompted the Manchester clubs to condemn their own supporters, with both issuing statements expressing solidarity with Liverpool Football Club and the families of the 97.
In addition, a City supporters’ group declared they were “appalled” by the actions of their fellow fans, and called on their own club to support calls for a Hillsborough Law and the Real Truth Legacy project, which aims to educate people on the causes and consequences of the disaster.
Meanwhile, individual United supporters have taken to social media to condemn the chants.
Nevertheless, family members of the 97 supporters who were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough and those who live with the consequences of the disaster continue to be targeted by online trolls.
Every anniversary is a challenge for those affected by the disaster, but to be confronted with online abuse, and rival supporters repeating tired old lies and smears, only prolongs their pain and is damaging to their mental health.
Liverpool Football Club has now responded to the growing calls for action by issuing its own statement expressing sadness, and promising to work with police and authorities to bring these hateful chants to an end.
And now, in direct response to the pain caused by the events of the last week, Liverpool’s oldest rivals have once again expressed their solidarity with their neighbours from across the park.
"Some things are bigger than football…"
Everton supporters have chosen the meeting of the two clubs in the Merseyside derby to showcase the sort of unity the city of Liverpool has become synonymous with.
Jazz Bal, chair of the Everton Fans’ Forum, told This is Anfield:
“With the 33rd anniversary of Hillsborough fresh in our minds, we would like to show solidarity and let our Liverpool supporting family and friends know that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
“In the last few weeks, both teams have been on the receiving end of offensive chants.
“Hopefully, the atmosphere today remains respectful from both sides, as some things are bigger than football.”
This is Anfield understands that intensive work continues behind the scenes, with clubs and supporters groups at local and national level working together to put an end to such vile chanting at football matches, and this move by Blues fans is about decent supporters uniting to call out hate.
Joe Blott, chair of Liverpool supporters’ union Spirit of Shankly hopes this move by Everton fans and similar calls from supporters of other clubs can lead to widespread change.
He told us:
“In a week when questions have rightly been asked about the values of some football fans, this typical show of Scouse solidarity stands out.
“From chants of ‘Merseyside, Merseyside’ in the 80s to the iconic girl/boy blue/red 96 photo, and the weekly food collections by Reds and Blues – the Anfield base literally 100 yards from the Memorial – fan solidarity stands out as a way to reset the moral compass.
“Not only in football, but in society as a whole.”