This is an open note to the author of an article published on the website of an American newspaper today, and also to its editor and hopefully its readership.
On Monday October 17th 2005, an article published on the website of the Philadelphia National Inquirer made reference to the Hillsborough Disaster. Unfortunately the writer of the article failed to make any efforts to check the details of the disaster before publishing his story. The story can be found at: http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/breaking_news/12920688.htm. Unfortunately there is a requirement to register before reading the full article.
The article itself, headlined, “Italy calls penalty on violent soccer fans, ” was a report on changes in Italian law which will see stiffer penalties imposed on Italian hooligans, in the wake of the scenes at the Champions League fixture between Inter Milan and AC Milan last season. The article also talked about other problems in the game of football in Italy, including racist chants, regular missile throwing and even bribery allegations.
The reporter, Inquirer Staff Writer Ken Dilanian, then went on to imply that the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters in 1989 at the Hillsborough disaster were caused by violence. The article also reports incorrectly the actual number of supporters that died in the tragedy.
To quote the article: “Italian football was not always so marred by violence: In the 1980s, British fans were the problem.
“In 1985, 39 supporters of Italian club Juventus were crushed and killed during a stadium stampede in Brussels, Belgium, as they fled marauding Liverpool fans. But after a 1989 disaster at which 93 Liverpool backers were killed during a match with another English team, the British government cracked down by improving stadium security and banning violent fans.”
Mr Dilanian seems to be unaware that the 96 fans that died (as opposed to the 93 he mentions) did so because of events that were not related to violence. A number of factors led to those deaths, none of which involved violence. Much has been written about how the poor planning of the event and the actions of senior members of the police force in charge that day were responsible for the deaths. Mr Dilanian seems to have been unable to find a moment to check those facts before allowing his story to be published.
Mr Dilanian could have avoided offence to Liverpool supporters and more importantly the families of those that were killed that day if he had spent just a small amount of time checking his facts. The hurt and suffering that was caused that day in 1989 was made worse in the following days by the lies that were printed by a British national newspaper at the time. The Sun claimed that Liverpool supporters were guilty of unspeakable acts against their own fellow fans that day, when in fact they were heroes that day. The Sun suffered tremendously in terms of circulation figures in the Liverpool area after their lies were printed. A daily circulation in that part of the country that had been close to a quarter of a million has been reduced to a little over 10,000. And now we find that over 16 years later the lies and mistruths are still being peddled to the public. This time it is a newspaper from the United States, but the fact remains that the lies still hurt those who suffered that day.
What also hurts is that many of the disparaging remarks made after the disaster were made at the expense of the character of the people of the city of Liverpool. An impression was being made by The Sun newspaper that the people of Liverpool were all vermin, especially those that chose to follow Liverpool Football Club. The various proceedings that took place afterwards to investigate the cause of the disaster were designed to protect those police officers that had acted so poorly on the day. No punishment was ever given to any of those involved. Those that even prevented what few ambulances that were available from entering the stadium to tend for the injured and dying. Liverpool supporters had to rip advertising hoardings from the side of the field of play to use as makeshift stretchers. Supporters were trying to save lives, police officers were being ordered to push fans trying to avoid being crushed and suffocated to death back into the crush again.
The wounds of that day and the days that followed are still very much open for so many of the people of Liverpool. Just try for a moment to imagine if the people of Philadelphia had suffered a disaster like this and had then during their hours of grief had been portrayed in the way the people of Liverpool were. Imagine if Philly had lost so many of its people in a disaster in a neighbouring state, and it was found that the chief of police of that state had been responsible, yet remained unpunished.
I am sure that Mr Dilanian never intended to cause hurt in his article, but by not taking that small amount of time out to check some facts he has caused hurt. I hope that the reporter and the newspaper have the decency to do a little more investigation into the disaster and the suffering it caused, and to then correct their original article. An article in its own right would be a suitable way of putting the record straight.
For more information on the disaster, I would recommend spending a bit of time making use of the following websites:
Liverpool FC: http://www.liverpoolfc.tv/lfc_story/memorial/
Hillsborough Justice Campaign: http://www.contrast.org/hillsborough/home.shtm
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I urge you to read more about this disaster and hope that you are able to ensure the truth is now published.
17th October 2005