On 15 April 1989, during an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield’s Hillsborough Stadium, a tragic crush killed 97 and left hundreds injured.

The causes of the Hillsborough tragedy are deeply rooted in a series of systemic failures and poor decisions. Overcrowding, inadequate stadium design and a lack of effective crowd control measures contributed to the fatal crush in the Leppings Lane end of the stadium. 

The aftermath saw a prolonged battle for justice as families of the victims sought accountability and truth, challenging the initial narrative falsified by South Yorkshire Police which blamed Liverpool supporters for the tragedy. 

Debbie Caine, of The Hillsborough Law Now Campaign, said: “The pain and suffering of the past 35 years have not diminished. Today, we pay tribute to all 97 supporters, they will never be forgotten, and we fight on in their memory and for all those who have suffered such injustice at the hands of the state.”

Investigations and inquiries revealed a pattern of negligence, cover-ups, and scapegoating, highlighting the failures of authorities, including the police and emergency services.

In 2016, a jury finally concluded that the 97 (96 at the time) victims were unlawfully killed, and subsequent inquiries have led to criminal charges against individuals and organisations responsible for safety and security at Hillsborough Stadium.

Ms Caine said: “The truth of what really happened on that dreadful day was not revealed for decades because public authorities and officials concealed the truth in their own interests.

“Yet, 35 years on, the experiences of Hillsborough families have been repeated countless times, currently with the Post Office scandal. Little has changed.”

The Hillsborough Disaster memorial for the 97 victims of the 1989 tragedy (source: James Stocks)

This week Labour Party leader Keir Starmer confirmed a Labour government would prioritise bringing The Hillsborough Law into being a parliamentary bill. 

This would introduce a legally enforceable, positive “duty of candour” for police and all public authorities to assist investigations into a major incident, and equal public funding for legal representation of bereaved families at inquiries and inquests.

The bill, drafted after the 2016 verdict, is aimed at ensuring that other people do not suffer police cover-ups and mistreatment, as the Hillsborough families did. 

Pete Weatherby, the solicitor who represents 22 of the affected families and co-writer of the first draft of the proposed Hillsborough Law, said: “The fact that he [Keir Starmer] has come out publicly in support to the bill is good news.

“Hillsborough Law is the legacy project of the Hillsborough families after establishing their loved ones have been unlawfully killed.”

Mr Weatherby compared Hillsborough to other tragedies that has struck the nation in more recent years. He said: “You can substitute Grenfell, COVID, the post office, whatever you like, for Hillsborough. It is an issue that goes on in every single investigation and inquiry. 

“The Hillsborough Law is an attempt to make practical and effective changes to the law to prevent public servants and others from covering up wrongdoing or hiding error.”

As we honour the memory of the 97 lives lost in the Hillsborough disaster, let us reaffirm our commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of fans at sporting events. May their legacy serve as a reminder of the ongoing pursuit of justice, accountability, and solidarity in the football community and beyond.