Football: British Police apologise for Hillsborough tragedy, death of 97 Liverpool supporters in 1989

Liverpool fans mourn the Hillsborough victims
Liverpool fans mourn the Hillsborough victims. Photo credit: Getty Images

Britain's National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) and College of Policing have apologised to survivors and the families of the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough soccer stadium disaster, where 97 Liverpool supporters lost their lives in a crush.

The 1989 FA Cup semi-final was the scene of Britain's worst sporting disaster, when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in an overcrowded and fenced-in enclosure in the lower tier. One victim died in July 2021, after suffering severe and irreversible brain damage.

Police at first blamed the disaster on drunken fans, an explanation rejected by survivors, relatives of the victims and the wider Liverpool community, who spent years fighting to find out what had happened. 

Later inquests and an independent inquiry absolved the fans of any responsibility.

"Policing has profoundly failed those bereaved by the Hillsborough disaster over many years and we are sorry that the service got it so wrong," said Chief Constable Andy Marsh, chief executive of the College of Policing.

"Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy and have continued to blight the lives of family members ever since.

"When leadership was most needed, the bereaved were often treated insensitively, and the response lacked coordination and oversight."

NPCC chair Martin Hewitt said he was "deeply sorry for the tragic loss of life", and for the "pain and suffering that the families of the 97 victims experienced on that day" and in the years that followed.

"Collectively, the changes made since the Hillsborough disaster and in response to Rt Reverend James Jones' report aim to ensure the terrible police failures made on the day and in the aftermath can never happen again," he added.

Hilllsborough victim being carried off the field in 1989
Hilllsborough victim being carried off the field in 1989. Photo credit: Getty Images

In 2019, former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield - the police commander in charge of stadium operations - was found not guilty of manslaughter - a decision that had shocked the survivors and family members of the victims.

Earlier this month, Newcastle United fans complained of "overcrowding and crushing", and a lack of stewarding at the Hillsborough Stadium, during their FA Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday at the same Leppings Lane End.

The British Government's sports stadium safety regulator also announced a review into complaints.