—- Football in general and Liverpool in particular have marked the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough Disaster.
The names of all the dead were read out yesterday during a 105-minute service at Anfield, framed by the traditional Cup Final hymn Abide With Me.
The 96 died in a crowd crush at the Leppings Lane end of the Sheffield Wednesday ground at the start of an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The match was abandoned after six minutes.
The verdict of the original inquest was quashed by the High Court last year after new evidence generated by an independent inquiry. A new inquest began in Warrington two weeks ago and was adjourned for the period of the memorial until April 22.
At Anfield scarves from every professional club in England were laid on the pitch to create the number 96.
The first formal reading was delivered by Everton manager Roberto Martinez. He recalled, as a “football-mad boy” in Spain, hearing of the disaster and his reaction: “How can anyone die watching the game you love? That isn’t right.That isn’t fair.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers read Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd.
He thanked Martinez for “a wonderful speech which shows this city is very much together, its people and its football.”
Rodgers added: “The single biggest source of inspiration at ever match is when I see the Hillsborough memorial. I see 96 names of individuals who were loved and cherished . . . and all went too soon.” The victims and all those who had fought on, on their behalf, “are the true inspiration for us.”
He also paid tribute to Kenny Dalglish “whose help and support at the time has been critical to the families and survivors.”
Andy Burnham, former Labour Sports Secretary who helped create the independent panel, praised the fortitude of the families and Liverpool’s supporters “because you made your voices heard and thank God you did.” He also paid tribute to Dalglish’s leadership and to the leaders of the panel, to supportive journalists and MPs and to Home Secretary Theresa May.
Then Trevor Hicks, president of the Hillsborough Families’ Support Group, reviewed a “very long road” via the Taylor Report, “years of nobody believing us,” right through to the HIP report “which changed not only Britain’s but the world’s understanding of Hillsborough and what the truth really was.”
He added: “It’s not over yet and there will be a great deal of heartache for all of us but we will get there just as we’ve been here for 25 years. We mourn our loved ones constahtly and especially today but the spirit of the 96 burns in our hearts and drives us on.”
Hicks was followed by Magaret Aspinall, chair of the families support group. She paid tribute to Liverpool FC’s support both corporate and individual, players past and present, the two Merseyside managers, civic officials and all those involved in the service.
Reason to believe
She concluded: “For 25 years we’ve been fighting to get to truth. We’ve been told we’ve got to very careful with what we’ve got to say . . but you all know what we’ve been fighting for.”
Broadcasters cut away from certain aspects of the service to observe the Attorney-General’s reminder about not publishing inappropriate commentary and opinion while the inquest was in progress.
Outside the stadium church bells tolled 96 times across Merseyside, a two-minute silence was held at Sheffield Cathedral while a short service and wreath-laying ceremony was staged at the memorial garden at Hillsborough. A one-minute silence also took take place at Old Market Square in Nottingham.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, in a letter to the Football Association, expressed his “deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the 96 who so tragically lost their lives . . . It is above all important to honour and remember the innocent victims of 15 April 1989.”