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26/04/2016

An Owl's Thoughts on #JFT96

We now know the verdict reached by Hillsborough Inquiry - the 96 were 'unlawfully killed'. It was a shocking yet not unsurprising unveiling of the truth, as we learnt the extent of the failure and corruption that surround the events of 15th April 1989.

I have blogged about my views on the Hillsborough Disaster before - here - and these views still stand.

Football is a tribal thing -  watching your football team win or lose can be a gripping, hugely emotional experience. And as it happens, I am looking forward to visiting the Hillsborough Stadium this weekend to watch my club, Sheffield Wednesday FC, play a crucial match against Cardiff City FC. I will likely go through all the nail biting, shouting, cheering and fist-clenching of a big game.

But as I look from the Kop towards the Leppings Lane end, I am sure I will pause - as I so often do - to contemplate the enormity of the catastrophe that took place there back in 1989. I along with thousands of others. 

Football has a dark side, thankfully less so this past decade or so. The intensity of footballing rivalry can quickly descend into something abhorrent - and I think some of the chants and comments from the stands can cause more long-term hurt to us as human beings than the punches exchanged by thugs on the periphery. We've seen this recently with Manchester United and Liverpool fans exchanging vile chants about the Hillsborough Disaster and the Munich Disaster. 

Depressingly, the substance of these chants - which we perhaps assume emerge in the heat of the moment - now get expressed on social media seemingly in the cold light of day. I have never heard Sheffield Wednesday fans chant about the Hillsborough Disaster but there has recently been a small but steady trickle of comments on social media which follow the same fan-blaming lies originally perpetuated by The Sun. And Owls aren't the only ones, there are countless others too - with absolutely no connection to the event or any rivalry with Liverpool FC - who post similar on forums and comments sections.

No football fan should mock or denigrate the human suffering of such tragedy, or any other. That's not football.

My father, an avid Sheffield United fan, once told me about an away trip to Elland Road in the 1970s where he witnessed a fellow Blade getting kicked up and down the pavement by a group of Leeds United hooligans. Just around the corner were some police officers - probably near enough to the violent commotion to spot it themselves. My father approached the police officers to alert them to the situation  - the reply was telling, "What do you expect, it's a football match." He also recalls how he and hundreds of Sheffield United fans were once herded through a narrow alley on the way to Rotherham United's old Millmoor stadium, and that a fatal crush very nearly happened that day. 

The point is, the injustice of the Hillsborough Disaster - before, during and after - should be every football fan's concern, every citizen's concern. Because it points to a wider failure and abuse of power.

All the victims are worth remembering but perhaps mention should be given to Nick Joynes, son of a Sheffield Wednesday fan. How many more are the sons, daughters, cousins, brothers, sisters - and so on - of fans of other clubs? Even if we try, we cannot so easily divide along tribal lines.

We would do well to remember also that Hillsborough 1989 is as much about Orgreave 1984 and Rotherham 1997 - 2013.

So, as the spotlight falls on Sheffield Wednesday FC - which is in fact now a very different organisation to the one in 1989, with all the directors involved back then having now left (leaving the club in such a state that it was very nearly liquidated by the High Court) -  I just hope we ordinary Owls fans leave our tribal loyalties to matters on the pitch. Let's not become deniers out of some misplaced urge to defend our football club.

We must continue to show solidarity with our fellow fans and citizens from Liverpool. Let us support attempts to get those individuals responsible in the dock to account for their actions, whether that be retired police officers - or former football club directors. 

Then we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free.


In 2013, Sheffield Wednesday fans on an online forum signed a shirt and drove it to the memorial at Anfield - as a mark of respect for the 96.

1 comment:

Naomi said...

Great post Matt ...