The Weekly Reflektion Week 04 / 2021

The inspiration for this reflection is the great feedback we received after the reflections on the Ibrox and Bradford City disasters. The Hillsborough disaster was preceded by warning signs and escalated due to poor emergency response planning and execution.

Do you use experiences from earlier incidents in your planning, and have you covered the relevant scenarios in your emergency response preparation?

Leppings Lane End, Hillsborough Stadium disaster

On the 15th April 1989, Liverpool were playing Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final at the Sheffield Wednesday home ground, Hillsborough. Liverpool fans had been allotted the Leppings Lane End. At kick-off, there were still many fans outside the ground trying to get through the turnstiles to the ‘pens’, areas segregated by metal barriers. The pressure of people trying to get into the ground led the police to open the large gates used to help fans exit the ground. The fans surged into the middle ‘pen’ trying to get in to see the game and aspressure increased a metal barrier collapsed. The people began to fear for their lives and started climbing over the perimeter fencing that prevented the fans getting on the pitch.  

The police, misunderstanding the situation, thought a pitch invasion was starting and tried to prevent the fans from getting on the pitch. 94 people died in the crush on the day, one person died a few days later, and one dying in 1993 after being in a persistent vegetative state in hospital since the disaster.766 people were injured.

The Taylor report of 1990 found that the main cause of the disaster was the failure of the South Yorkshire Police to control the crowd, but the Director of Public Prosecutions decided that there was no evidence to justify prosecution of any individuals or institutions. A coroner’s inquest found, in 1991 that all deaths were ‘accidental’, a verdict that the families of the victims refused to accept. Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, the stadium owners, were criticised for neglecting safety at the ground. The safety certificate for the Leppings Lane End was invalid, being last updated in 1979.

In 1981, there was serious overcrowding at the Leppings Land End section during the FA Cup semi-final between Spurs and Wolves. This resulted in 38 injuries, including broken arms, legs, and ribs. The response by Sheffield Wednesday was to install metal barriers to prevent sideways movement. The club was also recommended to reduce the capacity of the ground, but this never happened.

After overcrowding in the 1987 FA Cup semi-final at the ground, one supporter wrote to the Minister for Sport and the English Football Association complaining that ‘the whole area was packed solid to the point where it was impossible to move, and where I felt considerable concern for my personal safety.’

A Hillsborough Independent Panel in 2009 revealed details about police efforts to shift any blame onto the indiscipline and drunkenness of the fans. A second coroner’s inquest in 2016 ruled that the victims were ‘unlawfully killed due to grossly negligent failures by police and ambulance services to fulfil their duty of care’. Six people were later charged with offences including manslaughter by gross negligence and perverting the course of justice. 

Management had ignored the warning signs, and emergency response planning and execution was poor. How does your organisation measure up?

Reflekt AS