The following is the editorial that appeared in the various workplace bulletins produced by the Workers Fight group in Britain in the last week of April.  It deals with the findings of the independent panel established in 2012 to look into the deaths of 96 soccer fans at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield in 1989.

by Workers Fight

So after 27 years, a jury has finally decided that the 96 fans who were crushed to death on 15 April 1989, were “unlawfully killed”. And that the fans were “blameless”.

That is the great British justice system for you. After almost three decades – it finds that there was a cover-up; that police lied and that “authorities” were to blame. Well didn’t the fans, the victims’ families and indeed the general public already know that fans had nothing to answer for?

Yet in 1991, the then coroner ruled the 96 deaths to be “accidental”. And the allegation (by the Sun newspaper, among others) that “hooligans” had somehow caused the crush was never really challenged.

It was only thanks to an independent panel set up in 2012, after tireless campaigning by relatives of the victims and Liverpool fans, that the new hearings were ordered – which made its ruling yesterday.

So the victim’s families had to be put through two years of distress 25 years later, to prepare for this latest inquest, by watching footage of their relatives’ last moments – before they died of “compression asphyxia” and thus relive all their horror.

They treated fans like cattle

The “trial” of the families of victims is not even over yet. Because those now being accused of blame will still have to be prosecuted – depending on the Crown Prosecution Service’s cooperation, of course. It’s a long list of accused. It starts with the police, who obviously had no control over the situation. Match Commander Chief Superintendent Duckenfield was found responsible for manslaughter by gross negligence and has gone into hiding. He and others colluded with the lies police told to cover up their fatal “errors”. The current South Yorkshire Police chief has just been suspended.

Of course, the police could have behaved differently (but police are police). While they bear a lot of the responsibility for the deaths, and should be exposed for their lies, the situation itself was not of their making.

Closer to the real issue is the finding that there were “defects at the stadium” – miscalculations of numbers of fans attending, health and safety certification of the stadium facilities absent, etc. These were problems which compounded a slow response from emergency services. But these too, are still just symptoms and not “cause”.

Behind the “identified errors” are those who will never take any blame. In that long list of people to be held to account – starting with officials in charge of the game, the police, etc., and even, perhaps, the government of the day – which presided over such a blanket cover-up – the name of the biggest culprit of all doesn’t even appear!

Yes, because what underlies this catastrophe and indeed many others like it – Valley Parade in Bradford in 1985 (56 dead), Ibrox in 1971 (66 dead), Heysel 1985 (39 dead), Stade Furiani 1992 (18 dead) – where fire burnt down wooden stands or where stands and infrastructure collapsed, is the greed of those who see the beautiful game as a profit game.

They saw, and still see football fans as just fodder to make their money – and worse, they treat them like farm animals. Their contempt for the fans literally placed them in pens (and that’s what they were officially called) while police herded them like cattle. It still happens outside games.

After Hillsborough and several other disasters, the terraces were abolished and all stadiums had to have seats. Other “improvements” were brought in. And along with these improvements came very large “improvements” in the prices of tickets. That is, a huge improvement for the big business which literally makes a killing out of ordinary people’s love of the game.

Justice is served – for whom?

To add insult to injury is the hypocritical tribute that government ministers like Theresa May pay to the “extraordinary dignity and determination” of the Hillsborough families.

As if it had never been in the power of government to ensure prompt investigation and reparations? But then there is a long list of historical delays and miscarriages of justice which this “great” British system is responsible for:

Victims of torture and castration at British hands during the Mau-Mau fight for Kenyan independence waited 53 years for their case to be heard.

The 1972 Bloody Sunday enquiry finally reported in 2010.

More recently, Mark Duggan’s enquiry (shot in the back by police) was refused: his killing was deemed “lawful”!

And the CPS said it couldn’t charge police who shot Juan Charles De Menezes, 7 times in the head, after mistaking him for a terrorist in 2007. His family is still fighting for justice.

So yes the fortitude of those who fight for justice is to be saluted. But we should know too, that this system – the police, the judiciary and the government – is deliberately designed to protect big business interests and to cover its own back in so doing. Fortunately the working class does have a way to hold them to account: its collective strength. We only have to use it.

  1. Lennart Rahm says:

    Comrades, changing of e-mail address: xxxxxx (we’ve taken out his new email address – Redline Admin).

    Appreciate if you could change it, I like very much your always very interesting articles,

    La lutte continue,