LONDON: Andy Burnham, the former Minister who set the Hillsborough independent inquiry under way, has said the Football Association is among organisations with questions to answer over the 1989 FA Cup semi-final disaster in which 96 people died writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Burnham, now Shadow Health Minister, is curious as to how the FA had allocated the match to a ground without a valid safety certificate.
The FA had bungled its response to the inquiry report, waiting until the following day to issue a statement of condolence and then having to follow up with ‘real’ apology from chairman David Bernstein.
The Hillsborough Independent Panel confirmed that the Sheffield Wednesday ground did not have a valid safety certificate at the time of the match on April 15 1989. It also revealed a police cover-up had taken place which had intended to shift blame for the disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans, to the victims themselves.
Subsequent media reports have claimed that the FA, at the time, had turned down a request for the match to be staged at Manchester United’s Old Trafford.
Burnham said: “The FA need to ask themselves some serious questions. The main one is why did they allow a semi-final to be played at a ground without a valid safety certificate? I don’t think there’s an answer that people can accept because I think it was because of negligence of people’s safety.
“Why were supporters allowed to go into those unsafe conditions and did the FA know of those other near misses at other semi-finals such as 1981 Wolves v Spurs and 1987 involving Leeds?
“I remember going to Hillsborough the year before and having one of the most distressing experiences of my life. All of these things were known about Hillsborough, how did nobody in football act upon them?”
Hillsborough families welcomed the FA’s apology to all those affected by the disaster – but thought it should have been made years ago.
Margaret Aspinall, of the Hillsborough families support group, said: “We welcome the apology but the one thing that makes me angry is that we have had to wait for this report to come out before we get all the apologies that should have been made a long time ago.
“The FA did have a role in what happened so it’s right we should hear from them.”
Bernstein had commended the work of the panel in compiling the report and expressed sympathy for the families, saying: “We are deeply sorry this tragedy occurred at a venue the FA selected.”
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