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The Leppings Lane end at Hillsborough stadium during the disaster.
|Date||15 April 1989|
|Location||Leppings Lane End
|Cause||Overcrowding of confined pens on the terraces|
|Deaths||96, including 1 occuring at a later date|
The Hillsborough disaster was a human crush which occurred during the semi-final FA Cup tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest football clubs on 15 April 1989 at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England. The crush resulted in the deaths of 95 people on the day and 1 man dying later in hospital, with a total of 766 other persons being injured. All of them were fans of Liverpool Football Club.
The Hillsborough disaster remains the deadliest stadium-related disaster in British history and one of the worst ever international football accidents.
The official inquiry into the disaster, the Taylor Report, concluded that "the main reason for the disaster was the failure of police control." The findings of the report resulted in the elimination of standing terraces at all major football stadiums in England, Wales and Scotland.
At the time, most United Kingdom football stadiums had placed high steel fencing between the spectators and the pitch, in response to the hooliganism which had affected the sport for some years. Hooliganism was particularly virulent in England, where it often involved pitch invasions, the throwing of missiles, or both pre- and post-match violence; the Heysel Stadium Disaster is a prominent example, where 39 people died, with 14 Liverpool fans each sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for involuntary manslaughter. From 1974, when these security standards were largely put in place, English stadiums had an increasing number of crushes.
Hillsborough Stadium was a regular venue for FA Cup semi-finals during the 1980s, hosting a total of five. A previous crush had occurred at Hillsborough during the 1981 semi-final between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers, causing 38 injuries. This prompted Sheffield Wednesday to alter the design of the Leppings Lane end, dividing it into three separate pens. This was further divided into five pens when Wednesday were promoted to the First Division in 1984. Liverpool and Nottingham Forest had also met at the semi-final stage of the same competition at the same ground the previous year with many Liverpool fans reporting crushing in the Leppings Lane end, leading to Liverpool FC lodging a complaint prior to the 1989 FA Cup Semi-Final.
As is usual at all important matches, Hillsborough was segregated between the opposing fans. The police chose to put the Nottingham Forest fans in the Spion Kop End of the ground, which had a capacity of 21,000. The Liverpool supporters were assigned to the Leppings Lane End of the stadium, which could only hold 14,600 fans, even though Liverpool were regarded as having a larger support than Nottingham Forest, as with the opposite arrangement the routes of the opposing fans would have had to cross each other. Kick-off for the match was scheduled for 3:00 pm, with fans advised to take up their positions fifteen minutes beforehand. On the day of the match both radio and television advised that supporters without tickets should not attend.
It was reported that fans had been delayed by unannounced roadworks on the M62 motorway over the Pennines and the resulting road congestion. Between 2:30 pm and 2:40 pm, there was a big build-up of fans in the small area outside the turnstile entrances to the Leppings Lane End, all eager to enter the stadium quickly before the match started.
A bottleneck developed with more fans arriving than could enter the two cages in the middle of the Leppings Lane Stand. People who had been refused entry could not leave the area because of the crush behind them but remained as an obstruction. The fans outside could hear the cheering from inside as the teams came on the pitch ten minutes before the match started, and again as the match kicked off, but could not get in; the start was not delayed while the fans got in. In one instance, a small gate was opened to eject one person, and twenty people got into the ground through it. A side gate was also opened to ease the build-up. With an estimated 5,000 fans trying to get through the turnstiles, and increasing security concerns over crushing outside the turnstiles, the police, to avoid deaths outside the ground, opened a set of gates, intended as an exit, which did not have turnstiles (Gate C). This decision allowed a rush of supporters through the gate into the stadium.
The result was that many thousands of fans entered through a narrow tunnel at the rear of the terrace and into the two already overcrowded central pens, causing a huge crush at the front of the terrace. Hundreds of people were pressed against one another and against the fencing by the weight of the crowd behind them. The people entering were unaware of the problems at the fence; police or stewards would normally have stood at the entrance to the tunnel if the central pens had reached capacity, and would otherwise have directed fans into the side pens, but on this occasion they did not, for reasons which have never been fully explained. A BBC TV news report later stated that if police had posted two police horses correctly, they would have acted as breakwaters directing many fans into side pens, but on this occasion, this was not done.
For some time, the problem at the front of the pen was not noticed by any persons other than those affected as the attention of most people present was absorbed by the match, which by this time had already begun. It was not until 3:06 pm that the referee, Ray Lewis, after being advised by the police, stopped the match after many fans had begun climbing the fence onto the pitch in an effort to escape the crush. By this time, a small gate in the fencing had been forced open and some fans had escaped via this route, as others continued to climb over the fencing. While attempting to climb the fence to escape the police decided to try and stop them getting on the pitch. while still other fans were pulled to safety by fellow fans in the West Stand directly above the Leppings Lane terrace. The intensity of the crush had broken the crush barriers on the terraces; later, holes in the perimeter fencing were found to be caused by desperate tearing by fans attempting rescue.
Those trapped had been packed so tightly in the pens that many of the fatalities died of compressive asphyxia while standing. The circumstances in the Leppings Lane Stand rapidly overspilled onto the pitch, with many injured and traumatised fans who had managed to climb to safety congregating on this section of the pitch. The police, stewards and members of a St. John Ambulance service present at the stadium were overwhelmed. Many uninjured fans helped assist injured fellow fans; with several attempting CPR and others tearing down advertising boards in the ground and using them to act as temporary stretchers.
As these events unfolded, some police officers were still being deployed to make a cordon three-quarters of the way down the pitch, with the aim of preventing Liverpool supporters reaching the Nottingham Forest supporters at the opposite end of the stadium. Some fans tried to break through the police cordon to ferry injured fans to waiting ambulances, and were forcibly turned back. Forty-four ambulances had arrived at the stadium but police prevented all but one from entering.
Only 14 of the 96 fatalities ever arrived at a hospital.
A total of 94 people died on the day, either at the stadium, in the ambulance on their journey to hospital, or at hospital shortly after arrival. Their ages ranged from 10 to 67 years old, with 766 other fans injured: around 300 of whom were hospitalised. Four days later, on 19 April, the death toll reached 95 when a 14-year-old boy named Lee Nicol – attached to a life support machine – succumbed to the crush injuries he had received at Hillsborough. The final death toll reached 96 in March 1993, when artificial feeding and hydration of 22-year-old Tony Bland was withdrawn after nearly four years, during which he had been in a persistent vegetative state and shown no sign of improvement.
Andrew Devine, aged 22 at the time of the disaster, suffered similar injuries to Tony Bland and was later diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, but in March 1997 – a month before the eighth anniversary of the disaster – it was reported that he had emerged from the condition and was now able to communicate using a touch-sensitive pad.
79 of the fatalities were aged 30 or younger. Two sisters and three pairs of brothers, and a father and son were among the fatalities. Also among the dead were two men who were about to become fathers for the first time; 25-year-old Steven Brown of Wrexham and 30-year-old Peter Thompson of Widnes.
BBC Television's cameras were at the ground to record the match for their Match of the Day programme, but as the disaster unfolded the events were then relayed to their live sports show, Grandstand, resulting in an extreme emotional impact on the general British population. There was commentary afterwards on television about the lack of administrable oxygen and metal-cutting tools, and that there was no way to get ambulances onto the pitch.
Jon-Paul Gilhooley, cousin of current Liverpool F.C. captain Steven Gerrard, was the youngest person to die at Hillsborough, aged 10. Gerrard has stated that it was this tragedy that has inspired him and led him to lead his boyhood team and reach the heights of his career.
By the time of the disaster's 10th anniversary in 1999, at least three people who survived the Hillsborough disaster were known to have committed suicide due to emotional problems brought on by the disaster. Another survivor had been in a psychiatric unit for eight years by this stage. Numerous cases of alcoholism and drug abuse were also blamed on the tragedy, and the disaster also contributed to the collapse of a number of marriages involving people who had witnessed it.
Following the disaster, Lord Justice Taylor was appointed to conduct an inquiry into the disaster. Taylor's inquiry sat for 31 days and published two reports, one interim report that laid out the events of the day and immediate conclusions and one final report that made general recommendations on football ground safety. This became known as the Taylor Report. As a result of the report, fences in front of fans were removed and many of the top stadiums were converted to become all-seated.
The Taylor report found in its concluding chapters that "policing on 15 April broke down in the ways already described and, although there were other causes, the main reason for the disaster was the failure of police control." There was considerable debate over some aspects of the disaster; in particular, attention was focused on the decision to open the secondary gates. It was suggested that it would have been better to delay the start of the match as had often been done at other venues and matches. In defence, the police pointed out that the crush outside the stadium was getting out of control.
Although it was noted that Hillsborough was considered "one of the best in the country" , Sheffield Wednesday were criticised for the low number of turnstiles at the Leppings Lane End and the poor quality of the crush barriers on the terraces there. However, the Taylor Report stated that the official cause of the disaster was the failure of police control. Due to the low number of turnstiles, it has been estimated that it would have taken until 3:40 pm to get all ticket holders into the Leppings Lane End had an exit gate not been opened. Gate C was opened to let more fans in, but the total number of fans entering the terrace is not thought to have been more than the capacity of the standing area.
The disaster happened because most of the fans entering the terraces headed for the central pens 3 and 4 as directed by the large notice pointing them that way above the tunnel. Normally a police officer or steward would direct fans away from full pens, but on that day this did not happen. There were no stewards in that area at all. The official capacity of these pens was around 2,000, but the Health and Safety Executive later found that this should have been reduced to around 1,600 as the crush barriers did not conform to the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds 1986. It is estimated that more than 3,000 people were in these pens shortly after kick off at 3:00 pm. This overcrowding caused the fatal crush.
There were accusations that the behaviour of the Liverpool fans contributed to the disaster. These centered around consumption of alcohol before the game and attempts to enter the ground without a ticket. Although Lord Taylor acknowledged that these aggravated the situation, they were only secondary factors.
Witness estimates of the number of fans who were drunk varied from a minority to a large proportion of the crowd. Although it was clear that many fans had been drinking, Lord Taylor unequivocally stated that most of them were: "not drunk, nor even the worse for drink". He concluded that they only formed an exacerbating factor.
The possibility of fans attempting to gain entry without tickets or with forgeries contributing to the disaster was also suggested. South Yorkshire Police also suggested that the late arrival of fans amounted to a conspiracy in order to gain entry without tickets. However, analysis of the electronic monitoring system, Health and Safety Executive analysis, and eyewitness accounts showed that the total number of people who had already entered the Leppings Lane End was far below the capacity of the stand. Additionally, eye witness reports suggested that tickets were easily available on the day of the game, and that tickets for the Leppings Lane End were still on sale from Anfield until the day before the game. The report dismissed the conspiracy theory.
The Taylor Report has had a deep impact on safety standards for stadia built since its publication until today. Most notably, all new stadiums built in the Premier League and most Football League teams since then have been all-seater stadia, the first having been Millwall's New Den stadium, which opened in 1993. The Deva Stadium of Chester City F.C., opened the year before, had been the first English football stadium to fulfill the safety recommendations of the Taylor Report, although not an all-seater stadium.
A number of memorials have been erected in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy, all are listed below:
The tragedy has been acknowledged on 15 April each year by the community of Liverpool and football in general. An annual memorial ceremony is held at Anfield and at a church in Liverpool. The 10th and 20th anniversaries were marked by special services to remember the 96 victims.
Since 2007 there has been a Hillsborough Memorial service held at Spion Kop, KZN South Africa. The significance of this particular ceremony is that it is held on the Spion Kop Battlefield which gave its name to the Kop Stand at Anfield. There is also a permanent memorial to the 96 fans who died, in the form of a bench, positioned in view of the battlefield at a nearby lodge. Dean Davis and David Walters, members of the Official South African Liverpool Supporters Club (Gauteng Branch), are responsible for the creation of the service and the bench was commissioned by Guy Prowse in 2008.
In 1999 Anfield was packed with a crowd of around 10,000 people ten years on from the disaster. An individual candle was lit for each of the 96 people killed. The clock at the Kop End stood still at 3:06 pm, the exact time that the referee had blown his whistle in 1989 and the ground held a minute's silence, signalled by the match referee from that day, Ray Lewis. A service was led by the Right Reverend James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool and was attended by past and present Liverpool players, including Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Alan Hansen. According to the BBC report: "The names of the victims were read from the memorial book and floral tributes were laid at a plaque bearing their names." A gospel choir performed and the ceremony ended with a rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone". The anniversary was also marked by a minute's silence at the weekend's league games and FA Cup semi-finals.
In 2009, on the twentieth anniversary of the disaster, Liverpool were granted their request that their Champions League quarter-finals return leg, scheduled for 15 April, be played the day before (at Chelsea, 4–4).
The event was remembered with another ceremony at Anfield attended by over 28,000 people. The Kop, Centenary and Main Stands were opened early to the public before part of the Anfield Road End was opened to supporters. The memorial service, led by the Rt Reverend James Jones began at 14:45 BST and a two minutes silence (observed across Liverpool and in Sheffield and Nottingham, including public transport coming to a stand-still) was held at the exact time of the disaster twenty years earlier, 15:06 BST. The Sports Minister Andy Burnham addressed the crowd but was heckled by supporters chanting "Justice for the 96". The ceremony was attended by survivors of the tragedy, the families of victims and the current Liverpool team, with goalkeeper Pepe Reina leading the team and managerial team onto the pitch. One of the main events of the ceremony was when team captain Steven Gerrard and vice-captain Jamie Carragher handed over freedom of the city to the families of all the victims. Candles were lit for each of the 96 fatalities. Kenny Dalglish, the manager at the time of the disaster, read a passage from the Bible, "Lamentations of Jeremiah". The Liverpool manager at that time, Rafael Benítez, was also on hand to set 96 balloons free. The ceremony ended with 96 rings of the church bell across the city of Liverpool and a rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone".
On 14 May, more than 20,000 people packed Anfield for a match held in memory of the 96. The Liverpool Legends, comprising ex-Liverpool footballers beat the All Stars, captained by actor Ricky Tomlinson by 3–1. The event marked the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and raised cash for the Marina Dalglish Appeal which will be put towards a new radiotherapy centre at University Hospital in Aintree.
With the imminent release of police documents relating to events on 15 April 1989, the Hillsborough Family Support Group launched Project 96, a new fundraising initiative on 1 August 2009. At least 96 current and former Liverpool footballers are being lined up to raise £96,000 through the auctioning of limited edition (of 96) signed photographs.
The Hillsborough disaster touched not only Liverpool themselves, but also clubs in England and around the world as well. In particular, supporters of Everton, Liverpool's traditional local rivals, were affected by the tragedy, many of them having lost friends and family. They laid down flowers and blue & white scarves to show their respect for the dead and unity with their fellow Merseysiders shortly afterwards.
On 19 April 1989, the Wednesday after the disaster, a European Cup semi final between AC Milan and Real Madrid was played. The referee blew his whistle 3:06 minutes into the game to stop play and hold a minute's silence for those who lost their lives at Hillsborough. Half way through the minute's silence, the A.C. Milan fans sang Liverpool's "You'll Never Walk Alone" as a sign of respect.
Also in April 1989, Bradford City A.F.C. and Lincoln City F.C. held a friendly to benefit the victims of Hillsborough. It was their first meeting since the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985 that claimed 56 lives at Valley Parade. Bradford won the match, 3-1.
As a result of the disaster, Liverpool's game against Arsenal was delayed to the end of the season and eventually decided the league title. The Arsenal players brought flowers onto the pitch and presented them to the Liverpool fans around the stadium before the game. Arsenal won the game 2 – 0 and thus claimed the league title.
In 2006, Celtic F.C. fans produced a banner featuring the Liverpool crest and the Celtic crest with a flame in the middle surrounded by the words 'Justice For The 96, You'll Never Walk Alone' and presented it to the Kopites during their Champions League quarter-finals return leg (vs PSV Eindhoven, 1–0) at Anfield.
On 11 April 2009 Liverpool fans sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" as a tribute to the upcoming anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy. This was prior to their home game against Blackburn Rovers (which ended in Liverpool winning 4–0) and was followed by the former Liverpool player, now at Aston Villa, Stephen Warnock presenting a memorial wreath to the Kop showing the figure 96 in red flowers.
In May 1989, a charity version of the song "Ferry Cross the Mersey" was released in aid of those affected by the disaster. The song featured famed Liverpudlians Paul McCartney and Gerry Marsden and other popular artists of the time. The song was produced by Stock Aitken Waterman and reached #1 on the UK and Irish charts.
The process of inquests into the deaths of those who died at Hillsborough proved controversial. The coroner, Dr Stefan Popper, limited the main inquest to events up until 3:15 pm on the day of the disaster – just nine minutes after the match was halted and the crowd began to spill onto the pitch. Popper said this was because all of the victims were either dead, or brain dead, by 3:15 pm. This decision angered the families of the victims, many of whom felt this meant the inquest was not able to consider the response of the police and the other emergency services after that time. The inquest returned a verdict of accidental death.
Relatives have failed in their attempts to have the inquest reopened, to allow for more scrutiny of the police actions at Hillsborough, as well as closer examination of the circumstances of individual cases. Anne Williams, who lost her 15-year-old son, Kevin Williams, appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, on the strength of witness statements that her son was still showing signs of life at 4:00 pm. Her case was rejected in March 2009.
On 8 March 2011 the Hillsborough Independent Panel announced that they would examine previously-hidden documents to determine what took place after the 3:15 pm cutoff imposed during the inquest of 1991. A HIP spokesman said: “We have a wide remit to analyse all documents relating to the context, circumstances and consequences of the tragedy and its aftermath.”
Following a Governmental e-petition which had reached over 139,000 signatories on 17 October 2011, Parliament agreed to debate the full release to the public of Cabinet documents relating to the disaster.
During this debate in the House of Commons, the Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, Steve Rotheram, read out a list of all the victims of the tragedy and, as a result, these names will now be entered into Hansard - the official publication of printed scripts of all House of Commons debates.
A private prosecution was brought against David Duckenfield and another officer on duty, Bernard Murray. Prosecutor Alun Jones QC told the court that Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield gave the order to open gates so that hundreds of fans could be herded on to the already crowded terraces at the Hillsborough stadium. Mr Jones then stated that minutes after the disaster, [Duckenfield] "deceitfully and dishonestly" told senior FA officials that the supporters had forced the gate open themselves. Duckenfield admitted that he had lied about certain statements regarding the causes of the disaster. Several other officers, including Norman Bettison, were accused of manipulating evidence. Bettison was later to be appointed Chief Constable of Merseyside in controversial circumstances. The prosecution ended on 24 July 2000, with Bernard Murray being acquitted and the jury unable to reach a verdict in the case of David Duckenfield. On 26 July 2000, the Judge refused the prosecution's application for a re-trial of David Duckenfield.
Previous police disciplinary charges had been abandoned when Duckenfield was retired on health grounds. Because he was unavailable, it was decided that it would be unfair to proceed with the disciplinary charges against Bernard Murray. Duckenfield took medical retirement on a full police pension.
Various negligence cases were brought against the police by spectators who had been at the ground on the day, but had not been in the pens, and by people who had watched the incident unfolding on television (or heard about it on the radio). A case, Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police  1 A.C. 310, was eventually appealed to the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords and was an important milestone in the law of claims of secondary victims for negligently inflicted psychiatric injury. It was held that claimants who watched the disaster on television/listened on radio were not 'proximal' and their claims were rejected.
Another psychiatric injury claim was also brought to the House of Lords, White v Chief Constable of the South Yorkshire Police  2 A.C. 455. It was brought by the police officers on duty on that day against the Chief Constable who was said to have been vicariously liable for the disaster. Their claims were dismissed and the Alcock decision was upheld. It affirmed the position of the courts once again towards claims of psychiatric injuries of secondary victims.
On 19 April, four days after the disaster, Kelvin MacKenzie, then editor of The Sun, a British tabloid newspaper with national distribution owned by Rupert Murdoch, used "THE TRUTH" as the front page headline, followed by three sub-headlines: "Some fans picked pockets of victims", "Some fans urinated on the brave cops" and "Some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life".
The story accompanying these headlines claimed that "drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims" and "police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon". A quotation, attributed to an unnamed policeman, claimed a dead girl had been "abused", and that Liverpool fans were "openly urinating on us and the bodies of the dead". These allegations contradicted the reported behaviour of many Liverpool fans, who actively helped the security personnel to stretcher away a large number of victims and gave first aid to many injured.
In their history of The Sun, Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie wrote:
As MacKenzie's layout was seen by more and more people, a collective shudder ran through the office (but) MacKenzie's dominance was so total there was nobody left in the organisation who could rein him in except Murdoch. (Everyone in the office) seemed paralysed – "looking like rabbits in the headlights" – as one hack described them. The error staring them in the face was too glaring. It obviously wasn't a silly mistake; nor was it a simple oversight. Nobody really had any comment on it—they just took one look and went away shaking their heads in wonder at the enormity of it. It was a 'classic smear'.
Following The Sun's report, the newspaper was boycotted by most newsagents in Liverpool, with large numbers of readers cancelling orders and refusing to buy from shops that stocked it. The Hillsborough Justice Campaign also organised a less successful national boycott that nevertheless did have an impact on the paper's sales, which some commentators have given as a cause for continued drops in price, the introduction of free magazines, and video and free DVD offers. The issue was also addressed on the documentary Alexei Sayle's Liverpool on BBC Two when it covered the subject of Hillsborough. The segment saw comedian Alexei Sayle with a newsagent attempting to give away copies of The Sun, but every customer declined. Eventually, Sayle and the newsagent took the copies outside and, despite the newsagent's concern, set them alight.
MacKenzie explained his reporting in 1993. Talking to a House of Commons National Heritage Select Committee, he said: "I regret Hillsborough. It was a fundamental mistake. The mistake was I believed what an MP said. It was a Tory MP. If he had not said it and the Chief Superintendent (David Duckenfield) had not agreed with it, we would not have gone with it."
MacKenzie repudiated this apology in November 2006, saying that he only apologised because the newspaper's owner Rupert Murdoch ordered him to do so. He said, "I was not sorry then and I'm not sorry now" for the paper's coverage. MacKenzie refused again to apologise when appearing on the BBC's topical Question Time on 11 January 2007.
The Sun issued an apology for their treatment of the Hillsborough disaster "without reservation" in a full page opinion piece on 7 July 2004, saying that it had "committed the most terrible mistake in its history" by publishing it. The Sun was responding to the intense criticism of Wayne Rooney, a Liverpool-born football star who still played in the city (for Everton, now for Manchester United) who had sold his life story to the newspaper. Rooney's actions had incensed Liverpudlians still angry with The Sun. The Sun's apology was somewhat bullish, saying that the "campaign of hate" against Rooney was organised in part by the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo, owned by Trinity Mirror, who also own the Daily Mirror – arch-rivals of The Sun. Thus the apology actually served to anger some Liverpudlians further. The Liverpool Echo itself did not accept the apology, calling it "shabby" and "an attempt, once again, to exploit the Hillsborough dead".
On 6 January 2007, during their team's FA Cup defeat to Arsenal at Anfield, Liverpool fans in the Kop held up coloured cards spelling out "The Truth" and chanted "Justice for the 96" for six minutes at the start of the game. The protest was directed at Kelvin MacKenzie and The Sun, and at the BBC for employing MacKenzie as a presenter.
Many people in the Liverpool area continue to reject buying The Sun as a matter of principle, and the paper's sales figures within Merseyside remain very poor. It is the only major newspaper not to have articles published on Liverpool's official website. As of 2004, the average daily circulation of The Sun in Liverpool was just 12,000 copies a day. Some Liverpudlians refer to the paper as simply: The Scum.
The controversy was referred to during the 2009 Labour Party conference. On 30 September 2009, after the decision by The Sun to switch its support to the Conservative Party in advance of the forthcoming general election, Union Leader Tony Woodley ripped up a copy of The Sun, saying "In Liverpool we learnt a long time ago what to do."
However, subsequent articles in The Sun have since said that hooliganism was not a cause of the tragedy; on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy (15 April 2009) an article by journalist Mike Ellis condemned the 1991 inquest verdict of death by misadventure into the deaths of the 95 victims (the 96th victim Tony Bland did not die for another two years after this) as "tosh" and claimed that "death by negligence would have been a more accurate description".
Other corners of the media also pinned the blame for the disaster at least partly on Liverpool fans, including the Daily Star, which ran the front page headline "Dead Fans Robbed By Drunk Thugs" on 18 April 1989. The Sheffield Star published allegations similar to those in The Sun, running the headline "Fans In Drunken Attacks On Police", and the Liverpool Daily Post published an article entitled "I Blame the Yobs".
Anger about The Sun's reporting of this incident continues to the present day. James Murdoch recently apologised on behalf of The Sun to the phone hacking select committee about this same incident, even though at the time he was only sixteen years old.
The November 2002 edition of FHM in Australia was forced to be withdrawn from sale, and a public apology made in both the Australian and British editions, because it contained jokes mocking the disaster. As a result of the controversy, Emap Australia pledged to make a donation to the families of the victims.
The Australian editor of FHM, Geoff Campbell, released a statement which read: "We deeply regret the photograph captions published in the November issue of the Australian edition of FHM, accompanying an article about the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. The right course of action is to withdraw this edition from sale – which we will be doing. We have been in contact with the Hillsborough Family Support Group and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign to express our deep regret and sincere apologies." The British edition disassociated itself from the controversy, stating: "FHM Australia has its own editorial team and these captions were written and published without consultation with the UK edition, or any other edition of FHM."
The vice-chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Philip Hammond, said that he wanted all football fans to boycott the magazine, saying, "I am going to write to every fanzine in the country – including Liverpool FC's – telling them to ban FHM. People are very upset by it. I think there will be a real boycott." He also added that it would be like him making jokes about the 2002 Bali bombings, in which eight fewer Australians were killed than the Hillsborough disaster.
In November 2007, the BBC soap opera EastEnders caused controversy when the character Minty Peterson (played by Cliff Parisi) made a reference to the disaster. During the episode car mechanic Minty said: "Five years out of Europe because of Heysel, because they penned you lot in to stop you fighting on the pitch and then what did we end up with? Hillsborough." This prompted 380 complaints and the BBC apologised, saying that the character was simply reminding another character, former football hooligan Jase Dyer, that the actions of hooligans led to the fencing-in of football fans. Ofcom also received 177 complaints.
Liverpool reserve goalkeeper Charles Itandje was accused of having shown disrespect towards the Hillsborough victims during the 2009 remembrance ceremony, as he was spotted on camera "smiling and nudging" team-mate Damien Plessis. He was suspended from the club for a fortnight and many fans felt he should not play for the club again. He was omitted from the first team squad and never played for the club in any capacity again.
On 28 June 2010, following England's departure from the World Cup competition in South Africa, the UK's Culture and Sport Secretary Jeremy Hunt praised the England fans for their behaviour during the competition, saying "I mean, not a single arrest for a football-related offence, and the terrible problems that we had in Heysel and Hillsborough in the 1980s seem now to be behind us." He later apologised and said "I know that fan unrest played no part in the terrible events of April 1989 and I apologise to Liverpool fans and the families of those killed and injured in the Hillsborough disaster if my comments caused any offence." Margaret Aspinall, chairperson of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, asked for a face to face meeting with Mr Hunt before deciding if she would accept the apology.
In April 2012, comedian Alan Davies was accused of showing disrespect towards the Hillsborough victims due to comments made in an episode of his Arsenal podcast, The Tuesday Club. Commenting on the fact that Chelsea FC had to play their FA Cup semi final game only 3 days before their Champions League semi final first leg game against Barcelona due to Liverpool's refusal to play on 15th April, Davies said "Liverpool and the 15th - that gets on my tits that shit." He did mention however that the disaster was a terrible tragedy and has since apologized for the tone in which his remarks were made. His comments lead to a backlash from Liverpool FC fans. Davies received abuse and death threats through social networking sites such as Twitter.
In 1994, Liverpudlian scriptwriter Jimmy McGovern used the Hillsborough disaster as an apparent motivation for serial killer Albie Kinsella (played by actor Robert Carlyle) in the plot of "To Be A Somebody", the opening story of the second series of the crime drama Cracker. One of Albie's targets includes a fictional reporter for The Sun, Clare Moody. Albie attempts to butcher Moody in her car during the second act, but she escapes. She is killed at the end of the third and final act when she opens a letter bomb sent by Albie, who has already stabbed to death an Asian shopkeeper, a psychologist, an off-duty police officer and a security guard at a quarry.
It becomes clear during the episode that Kinsella is merely attempting to use the disaster, and the death of his own father, as excuses for his own psychopathic behaviour. This attempt is clearly and explicitly thwarted by the title character, criminal psychologist Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald (played by Robbie Coltrane).
"To Be a Somebody" led to a number of complaints; however, McGovern had met with many of the victims' families while researching the episode. He went on to write a television drama about the Hillsborough disaster, which was screened in December 1996 on the ITV television network in the United Kingdom.
A television drama film, based on the disaster and subsequent events, titled simply Hillsborough, was produced by Granada Television. It was highly praised and won the BAFTA Award for Best Single Drama in 1997. Christopher Eccleston, Ricky Tomlinson and Mark Womack were among the leading actors appearing in the film. It was aired for the first time in 1996, and has aired twice since then, in 1998 and 2009.