The truth!

The Truth‘ was of course the infamous Sun headline that smeared innocent Liverpool supporters for their behaviour at Hillsborough on that fateful day 23 years ago. Following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, and if the current editor of the tabloid has a shred of decency, tomorrow’s front page headline of the tabloid should read: ‘We lied’.

Because, it transpires that the Sun’s idea of the truth was actually a series of “despicable untruths” concocted by mendacious, self-serving police officers, ably assisted by an abhorrent local MP (Irvine Patnick), in a bid to exonerate the police and emergency services and pin the blame for the tragedy on the innocent supporters.

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, who wrote the headline ‘The Truth’, has offered his “profuse apologies to the people of Liverpool”.

Trevor Hicks, who lost two daughters at Hillsborough, and who campaigned for justice as head of the Family Support Group, said that MacKenzie’s apology to the families of the victims is “too little, too late. The man is low-life”.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is to be commended for a dignified statement made to the House of Commons, in which he admitted: “These families have suffered a double injustice … I am profoundly sorry this has been left uncorrected so long.”

Even those of a cynical bent will be shocked and disgusted to read that 164 witness statements were altered to reflect favourably on the police and the ambulance service, both of which were found to be negligent. One of the heartbreaking findings for the bereaved families is the suggestion that of the 96 who died, 41 could have been saved had they received the proper attention that day. Ultimately though, the saddest revelation is that no one would have died had the police done their job properly and protected those they are employed to serve.

Those of you unfamiliar with the tragedy could do worse than read Brian Reade’s incredibly powerful and poignant report in the Mirror.

He concludes:

“For seeking truth in the face of vicious lies and prejudice. For fighting for the memory of people whose only crime was being naive enough to turn up at, supposedly, one of the country’s finest football grounds in the belief that their safety was paramount in the eyes of those charged with their care.

If you are a football fan you should remember them when you look around today’s affluent, cage-free, well-stewarded, all-seater stadiums.

You should remember the agony they went through in the first Hillsborough Disaster and the suffering their families went through in the second one.

And you should never forget that for English football’s bright tomorrow they gave their todays.”

If you wish to read the full report then you can find that and other information at the website of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

Here’s Cameron’s statement which we’re reproducing in its entirety:

“Today the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Reverend James Jones, is publishing the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

The disaster at the Hillsborough football stadium on 15th April 1989 was one of the greatest peacetime tragedies of the last century.

Ninety-six people died as a result of a crush in the Leppings Lane Terrace at the FA Cup Semi-Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

There was a public Inquiry at the time by Lord Justice Taylor which found – and I quote – that the main cause of the disaster was “a failure of police control.”

But the Inquiry didn’t have access to all the documents that have since become available it didn’t properly examine the response of the emergency services it was followed by a deeply controversial inquest and by a media version of events that sought to blame the fans.

As a result, the families have not heard the truth and have not found justice.

That is why the previous government – and in particular – the Rt Hon Member for Leigh was right to set up this Panel.

And it is why this government insisted that no stone should be left unturned and that all papers should be made available to the Bishop of Liverpool and his team.

Mr Speaker, in total over 450,000 pages of evidence have been reviewed.

It was right that the families should see the report first. As a result the government has only had a very limited amount of time to study the evidence so far.

But it is already very clear that many of the report’s findings are deeply distressing.

There are three areas in particular. The failure of the authorities to help protect people. The attempt to blame the fans. And the doubt cast on the original Coroner’s Inquest.

Let me take each in turn.

Findings: failures of the authorities

First, there is new evidence about how the authorities failed.

There is a trail of new documents which show the extent to which the safety of the crowd at Hillsborough was “compromised at every level”.

The ground failed to meet minimum standards and the “deficiencies were well known”.

The turnstiles were inadequate. The ground capacity had been significantly over-calculated. The crush barriers failed to meet safety standards. There had been a crush at exactly the same match the year before.

And today’s report shows clearly that lessons had not been learnt.

The report backs up again the key finding of the Taylor Report on police failure. But it goes further by revealing for the first time the shortcomings of the ambulance and emergency services response.

The major incident plan was not fully implemented. Rescue attempts were held back by failures of leadership and co-ordination. And, significantly, new documents today show there was a delay from the emergency services when people were being crushed and killed.

Findings: attempt to blame the fans

Second, the families have long believed that some of the authorities attempted to create a completely unjust account of events that sought to blame the fans for what happened.

Mr Speaker, the families were right. The evidence in today’s report includes briefings to the media and attempts by the Police to change the record of events.

On the media. Several newspapers reported false allegations that fans were drunk and violent and stole from the dead.

The Sun’s report sensationalised these allegations under a banner headline “The Truth.”

This was clearly wrong and caused huge offence, distress and hurt.

News International has co-operated with the Panel and, for the first time, today’s report reveals that the source for these despicable untruths was a Sheffield news agency reporting conversations with South Yorkshire Police and Irvine Patnick, the then MP for Sheffield Hallam.

The report finds that this was part of police efforts – and I quote – “to develop and publicise a version of events that focused on…allegations of drunkenness, ticketlessness and violence.”

In terms of changing the record of events, we already know that police reports were significantly altered but the full extent was not drawn to Lord Justice Taylor’s attention.

Today’s report finds that 164 statements were significantly amended – and 116 explicitly removed negative comments about the policing operation – including its lack of leadership.

The report also makes important findings about particular actions taken by the police and coroner while investigating the deaths. There is new evidence which shows that police officers carried out police national computer checks on those who had died in an attempt – and I quote from the report – “to impugn the reputations of the deceased.”

The Coroner took blood alcohol levels from all of the deceased including children.

The Panel finds no rationale whatsoever for what it regards as an “exceptional” decision.

The report states clearly that the attempt of the inquest to draw a link between blood alcohol and late arrival was “fundamentally flawed”.

And that alcohol consumption was “unremarkable and not exceptional for a social or leisure occasion”.

Mr Speaker, over all these years questions have been raised about the role of the government – including whether it did enough to uncover the truth.

It is certainly true that some of the language in the government papers published today was insensitive.

But having been through every document – and every government document including Cabinet Minutes will be published – the Panel found no evidence of any government trying to conceal the truth.

At the time of the Taylor Report the then Prime Minister was briefed by her private secretary that the defensive and – I quote – “close to deceitful” behaviour of senior South Yorkshire officers was “depressingly familiar.”

And it is clear that the then government thought it right that the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire should resign.

But as the Rt Hon Member for Leigh has rightly highlighted, governments then and since have simply not done enough to challenge publicly the unjust and untrue narrative that sought to blame the fans.

Findings: original coroner’s inquest

Third, and perhaps most significantly of all, the Bishop of Liverpool’s report presents new evidence which casts significant doubt over the adequacy of the original inquest.

The Coroner – on the advice of pathologists – believed that victims suffered traumatic asphyxia leading to unconsciousness within seconds and death within a few minutes.

As a result he asserted that beyond 3.15pm there were no actions that could have changed the fate of the victims and he limited the scope of the Inquest accordingly.

But by analysing post mortem reports the panel have found that 28 did not have obstruction of blood circulation and 31 had evidence of heart and lungs continuing to function after the crush.

This means that individuals in those groups could have had potentially reversible asphyxia beyond 3.15pm in contrast to the findings of the coroner and a subsequent judicial review.

And the panel states clearly that “it is highly likely that what happened to those individuals after 3.15pm was significant” in determining whether they died.

Response

Mr Speaker, the conclusions of this report will be harrowing for many of the families affected.

Anyone who has lost a child knows the pain never leaves you.

But to read a report years afterwards that says – and I quote: “a swifter, more appropriate, better focused and properly equipped response had the potential to save more lives” can only add to the pain.

It is for the Attorney General to decide whether to apply to the High Court to quash the original inquest and seek a new one.

In this capacity he acts independently of government. And he will need to examine the evidence himself.

But it is clear to me that the new evidence in today’s report raises vital questions which must be examined.

And the Attorney General has assured me that he will examine this new evidence immediately and reach a decision as fast as possible.

But ultimately it is for the High Court to decide.

It is also right that the House should have an opportunity to debate the issues raised in this report fully.

My Rt Hon Friend the Home Secretary will be taking forward a debate in Government time. And this will happen when the House returns in October.

Apology

Mr Speaker, I want to be very clear about the view the government takes about these findings and why after 23 years this matters so much, not just for the families but for Liverpool and for our country as a whole.

Mr Speaker what happened that day – and since – was wrong.

It was wrong that the responsible authorities knew Hillsborough did not meet minimum safety standards and yet still allowed the match to go ahead.

It was wrong that the families have had to wait for so long – and fight so hard – just to get to the truth.

And it was wrong that the police changed the records of what happened and tried to blame the fans.

We ask the police to do difficult and often very dangerous things on our behalf.

And South Yorkshire Police is a very different organisation today from what it was then.

But we do the many, many honourable police men and women a great disservice if we try to defend the indefensible.

It was also wrong that neither Lord Justice Taylor nor the Coroner looked properly at the response of the other emergency services.

Again, these are dedicated people who do extraordinary things to serve the public.

But the evidence from today’s report makes very difficult reading.

Mr Speaker, with the weight of the new evidence in this report, it is right for me today as Prime Minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have suffered over the past 23 years.

Indeed, the new evidence that we are presented with today makes clear that these families have suffered a double injustice.

The injustice of the appalling events – the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth.

And the injustice of the denigration of the deceased – that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths.

On behalf of the Government – and indeed our country – I am profoundly sorry for this double injustice that has been left uncorrected for so long.

Why this matters for Merseyside and the country

Mr Speaker, because of what I have described as the second injustice – the false version of events – not enough people in this country understand what the people of Merseyside have been through.

This appalling death toll of so many loved ones lost was compounded by an attempt to blame the victims.

A narrative about hooliganism on that day was created which led many in the country to accept that it was somehow a grey area.

Today’s report is black and white.

The Liverpool fans “were not the cause of the disaster”.

The panel has quite simply found “no evidence” in support of allegations of “exceptional levels of drunkenness, ticketlessness or violence among Liverpool fans”; ”no evidence that fans had conspired to arrive late at the stadium”; and “no evidence that they stole from the dead and dying.”

Mr Speaker, I’m sure the whole House will want to thank the Bishop of Liverpool and his panel for all the work they have done.

And I am sure that all sides will join with me in paying tribute to the incredible strength and dignity of the Hillsborough families and the community which has backed them in their long search for justice.

While nothing can ever bring back those who have been lost with all the documents revealed and nothing held back the families, at last, have access to the truth.

And I commend this Statement to the House.”

Worlds apart

Milan CEO Adriano Galliani feels it is impossible for the Rossoneri to compete with clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Domestically, Galliani believes his side can compete, but in a sad indictment of the current state of Italian football, he argues that Milan are worlds apart from Europe’s elite.

“Milan can compete with any Italian team in my opinion, but things are different in Europe. Teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid are from another planet,” Galliani was quoted as saying by Corriere dello Sport.

It’s an assertion that’s hard to dispute and it’s one whose implications we should should pause to consider. When we’ve reached the stage where the seven-times European Cup winners are unable to compete, then surely the gulf between the haves and the have-nots and in particular the growing concentration of talent at a handful of Super Clubs, is a cause for concern for Europe as a whole.

Financial Fairplay?

On the subject of the new breed of Super Clubs, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City have come under fierce criticism from Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge for their profligate ways.

The Qatari-owned French club, who have lavished a fortune trying to assemble a competitive team, were singled out by Rummenigge

“What bothers me is Paris,” Rummenigge told L’Equipe. “When I hear the salary of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, I have a stomach ache. One year’s salary is equivalent to that of Javi Martinez over five years.

“When I look at their spending, Manchester City (€54 million this summer) or Chelsea (€100.7 million)… I think that these clubs have huge losses.

“All have an obligation to respect that the rules of fair play require that financial losses should not go beyond €15 million per season.”

Quote of the day

“This referee is a clown. How come he didn’t give us that penalty? We are in Uruguay, we are not in another planet. He did the same in the last World Cup qualification campaign. He’s a disgrace. A total clown.”

Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia was unhappy with Carlos Amarilla after the Paraguayan refused a penalty appeal in the 1-1 draw with Uruguay.

Goals of the day

Spoilt for choice following last night’s round of World Cup qualifiers.

There was this stunning strike from Guillaume Gillet in Belgium’s 1-1 draw with Croatia.

Also in contention was James Rodriguez for his sumptuous free-kick for Colombia against Chile.

Arguably, though, the best of the lot came from Yevhen Konoplianka, who produced a howitzer of a shot to earn Ukraine a 1-1 draw with England at Wembley.

Stats of the day

32 – Showing that age shall not wither him nor curb his impetuous and occasionally psychotic streak, Steven Gerrard, at 32, became the oldest player to be sent off for England when he received his marching orders against Ukraine.

103 – That’s the number of caps won by Lukas Podolski. Somewhat incredibly, he equalled Franz Beckenbauer’s number for Germany in Wednesday’s win over Austria. Beckenbauer is widely regarded as his country’s best ever player; Podolski isn’t.

16 – Years since Wales suffered a heavier defeat than their 6-1 loss to Serbia. So much for the Golden Generation. “I can’t put it in to words,” Wales manager Chris Coleman said afterwards – a statement which is unlikely to inspire confidence in his employers.

Miss of the day

Marko Arnautovic missed a wonderful opportunity to earn a point for Austria against neighbours Germany seconds before the final whistle.

Putting bums on seats

The most striking spect of England’s 1-1 draw with Ukraine at Wembley was the number of empty seats. The attendance was officially announced as 68,102, but one can only assume that this figure represented the number of tickets sold rather those present in the stadium, which looked at best half full.

No wonder there has been speculation about the FA selling naming rights for a stadium that cost of £798 million. However, with a Wembley source denying the report, alternative revenue streams must be examined. Looking at the success of British sports people over the summer I have one or two suggestions that could increase capacity at English football’s showpiece venue.

The first and most obvious proposal is to scrap the stadium’s current remit as the official home of the England national team. It’s clearly not working and it results in a splendid, much admired venue being tainted by association with a not-so-splendid, much derided football team. In fact, removing the pitch and turning it into a giant velodrome could do wonders not only for the coffers but also the atmosphere, which, if we’re honest is funereal, or if you prefer, Emiratesque.

Or how about keeping the pitch intact, but changing the touchlines into tramlines and stringing a net on the halfway line to create the world’s biggest grass tennis court. Bottle that Andy Murray euphoria while it lasts and exploit it ruthlessly for the duration of Wimbledon.

By comparison, the FA’s attempts to fill the ground seem mundane and uninspired. They have announced friendlies against two opponents guaranteed – if such a thing is possible with the current England team – to fill the stadium. Everyone’s favourite second team, Brazil, are scheduled to play next year as are Ireland, for a derby match that will probably feel like an away match for England.

You’ve got a friend

“When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand and nothing, whoa, nothing is going right.”

That’s when you need a friend and Cristiano Ronaldo is certainly someone who sounds like he could do with one right now. So, he’ll be relieved, if a little surprised, to hear that former Barcelona president Joan Laporta offering his public backing to the Real Madrid man.

Ronaldo, 27, has been been the subject of scrutiny after admitting to his “sadness” at the Bernabeu. He refused to elaborate as to the source of his unhappiness, which appears to have antagonised those in the media who feel that footballers feelings only exist for them to write stories about.

“I don’t know why he is sad. Everyone is on his back,” Laporta told AS. “I understand the lad is under a lot of pressure. He’s human and everyone is affected by what goes on around them. It happened to me, where you say something because you really feel it and then you see it have major repercussions.

“I think Cristiano is a fine professional. Madrid will ensure he gets his happiness back and feels as good as he can. It’s obvious that he lives under enormous pressure and that is not easy. People have said a lot of things that aren’t fair to him for the professional he is.”

Match fixing latest

Bulgaria’s prosecutor has opened an investigation into claims of match-fixing in four games this season, the head of the Bulgarian Football Union’s ethics commission has revealed. said.

“We informed the prosecutor about two Etar Veliko Tarnovo games – at home to Pirin Gotse Delchev and away to Beroe Stara Zagora – and they will be investigated,” the commission’s chief, Vasil Vasilev, told local media.

The 1991 Bulgarian champions Etar lost the two games in question 1-0.

They were beaten by Beroe after a late own goal from substitute defender Kostadin Gadzhalov. The club’s owner, Feyzi Ilhanli, sacked coach Tsanko Tsvetanov after the final whistle, accusing him of being involved in match-fixing, but reinstated him a day later saying he had made an emotional and hasty decision.

“This is utter nonsense,” Tsvetanov said. “Can you imagine this – I love this club so much and there’s no way to even try to fix a match.”

Vasilev added: “We also handed information for one match from the junior championship and one from the women’s championship, but I can’t give more details.”

There appears to be general acceptance that the problem is widespread, though so far no charges have been brought.

In June, Lokomotiv released nine players from a junior team on suspicion of match-fixing after their game against Sportist Svoge was abandoned after three men ran on to the pitch, threatened the referee, and hit the coach and one of the assistant referees.

Not exactly the most subtle of attempts to influence the outcome of a match.

“There’s widespread match-fixing in the junior championship,” said Emil Dimitrov, the president of second division Chavdar Etropole and a member of the Bulgarian parliament.

“A year and a half ago, there was an attempt to fix our team’s match but the lads informed us and we notified the GDCOM (general directorate combating organised crime).

“Some people were detained but they didn’t charge them because there was no law on match-fixing. And then we initiated legal amendments under which anyone convicted of attempting to fix sports events will face up to six years in jail.”

 

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