Anfield will host the Hillsborough Memorial Service again this afternoon, as the Kop fills with people who want to pay their respects to the ninety-six victims on the 21st anniversary of that day.
Last season’s service fell during school holidays meaning far more people than usual were able to attend, catching the club by surprise when something like 30,000 people turned up. This year the service will be all-ticket. There is no charge for the tickets, but it allows the club to prepare appropriately for the number of people wishing to attend. It’s estimated there will be around 10,000 in attendance today.
As well as supporters of Liverpool there is always a large presence from fans of other sides, many of whom travel long distances, not to mention those who have no football connection but felt touched by the tragedy. At the front of the Kop, as always, will be the families – joined as ever by the players, staff and officials of the club.
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez spoke about what it means to him and how important he knows the service is: “Since I’ve been here it’s always been very, very emotional. All the players and all the staff are always there trying to support the families because it is a very important day for the club.
“The first time I went to the Memorial Service I was so impressed by what happens at this club. You can see the people and all the feelings. It’s a poignant occasion to keep everyone remembering.”
The service starts at 2.45pm as always, with a minute’s silence at 3.06pm. That time is chosen because it was that time on April 15th 1989 that the referee stopped the game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, having been alerted to the awful events unfolding on the Leppings Lane terracing. Ninety-six supporters who had gone to that FA Cup semi-final never went home again, their lives ended brutally in the crush that ensued when police were ordered by their commander to open a gate. A tragedy that could so easily have been avoided, yet to this day many of the details remain covered up.
If you are unable to attend the stadium you can see coverage of the service live on the club’s TV channel, LFC TV, which is on Sky channel 434. It will also be broadcast free of charge on the club’s website, www.liverpoolfc.tv. Coverage starts at 2.30pm.
If you are unable to attend or view the coverage of the service online or on TV, perhaps find somewhere quiet for a minute or two at 3.06pm and remember the 96.