Fans to blame for fences

I WRITE regarding the Hillsborough disaster.

I was substantially involved on behalf of Supt Marshall, who asked for gates to be opened to save the lives of hundreds of fans who had arrived late and were in danger of being crushed at the front. One young man had already been rescued by being passed overhead virtually unconscious out of the danger area.

I love Liverpool and Liverpudlians with whom I had close links in various ways for years. They are amusing and talented. Their football supporters were not solely responsible for what happened.

Football fans of almost every team in the country had made the fences necessary to prevent invasion of the pitch and unruly behaviour towards players and officials.

If it had not been for their behaviour over many years, those being crushed from behind by a sudden influx of hundreds of fans, late and without tickets, could have escaped onto the pitch.

There will be many opinions bandied about. The inescapable facts, however, from the post mortem reports, were that six women were totally clear of alcohol, but 50 per cent of the male deceased had consumed so much alcohol as to be unable to stand up straight and keep from falling over.

The coroner himself, was very fair throughout, supplemented that evidence by calling evidence that the nature of the crushing from hundreds of latecomers without tickets, which was like trying to get a quart into a pint pot, must have been representative of the deceased themselves ie that 50 per cent of the enormous crowd which caused the gates to be opened or were inside in good time with tickets must also have been affected by a similar proportion of alcohol in their blood.

There was plenty of other evidence that a combination of a very hot day and a ban on alcohol inside the ground (brought about by previous behaviour by fans of all teams) combined to cause the fans who could not get through the match without alcohol to tank up before the match.

There was also plenty of evidence, country-wide, of the practice of desperate fans without tickets coming late in large numbers forcing their way in by overwhelming the ticket staff.

Let us be thankful that the scale of the disaster led to a general increase in competence on all sides which has prevented further occurrences like the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters.

The attempt to reverse the verdict of a jury of ordinary people after hearing and seeing three months of evidence, will only bring Liverpool alone into disrepute, which would be unfair when many fans of many other teams were jointly responsible over many seasons.

Vincent Hale, retired solicitor and advocate at the inquest, Sheffield

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