On this day in 1989, 97 people lost their lives, and hundreds more were injured, in a crush at the Hillsborough Football Club stadium in England. It was Britain’s deadliest sporting disaster, occurring shortly before kick-off of the semi-final Football Association Cup (soccer) game between the Liverpool and Nottingham Forest teams. Upon orders from police commanders, who were trying to ease congestion at the stadium entrance, additional gates that led to the standing-room-only pens were opened, resulting in fatal overcrowding.
Following the tragedy, the local police attempted a cover-up by falsely blaming drunken Liverpool fans for the crush. Survivors and victims’ families fought for years for a full accounting of police and ambulance service failures. The initial inquiry in the early 1990s that concluded the deaths were “accidental,” and found no blame with police procedures, angered survivors and the general public. More investigations over the course of the next two decades revealed negligence on the part of the police responsible for crowd control, and failures in the design of the stadium that contributed to the crush. An April 2016 inquest officially confirmed that the football fans were not responsible for the disaster. Several police leaders, including former Chief Superintendent David
Duckenfield, would be brought up on criminal charges, but eventually found not guilty of manslaughter.
Standing-room-only pens were eliminated in the highest leagues of British football in favor of all-seater stadiums.
The Hillsborough disaster victims ranged in age from just 10 years to 67 years old. 79 of the victims were under the age of 30.