Watching the truth about Hillsborough finally come out today was at times gut wrenching. The story may be known well by now, but that didn’t stop the revelations shocking, nor the sense of shame that it has taken 23 years to get to a point where the incompetence that led to 96 deaths was finally laid bare and that those 96 finally had their names cleared.
I was a bit too young to understand what Hillsborough was at the time although I remember well the coverage of the death of (check) several years later and finally realising the extent of the horrors of that day. And it made a lot of sense that my mother, in 1990, was horrified at the idea of me attending a football match.
I can’t really write much more about the disaster itself – others with a far closer connection than I have done so powerfully and eloquently.
But reading both reports today and writing from nearer the time it’s clear that while a lot has changed, so plenty stays the same. When Saturday Comes’ post-Hillsborough editorial from 1989 is still as relevant today as it was 23 years ago.
Yet football has changed, almost unrecognisably in some respects. The unsafed, caged stadia where an unloved national game was played has given way to the modern, family-friendly all-seater atmosphere we take for granted today, created in part out of the Taylor report. The modern behemoth we know as football today has been shaped by the events of Leppings Lane.
But it shouldn’t have taken the loss of 96 lives to do this. And while football has moved on, the families of the victims have been unable to, as the release of today’s documents show. And it’s a testament to their resolve that they haven’t given up and kept fighting for this moment.
You don’t have to be a Liverpool supporter or even a football fan to be horrified at the contents of the Hillsborough archives, or that there were many warning signs and previous crushes in the years preceding the disaster that were never heeded. In some respects, it could have been any football club’s supporters.
The release and the apologies are something many thought would never happen. David Cameron said that after truth comes justice. Now we know beyond doubt what really happened on that fateful day, and the extent the authorities went to cover it up, hopefully those responsible can be held to account properly.