South Yorkshire Police and FA under fire over Hillsborough

SOUTH Yorkshire Police was last night considering referring itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over its conduct relating to the Hillsborough disaster, as the publication of previously classified files continued to generate shockwaves.

The Football Association also found itself under the spotlight, with Labour MP Andy Burnham and families of the 96 Liverpool supporters who perished branding an apology from the governing body’s chairman David Bernstein insufficient and long overdue.

Wednesday’s report by the Independent Hillsborough Panel, which studied 450,000 pages of unreleased documents relating to the 1989 stadium crush, depicted a cover-up by South Yorkshire Police, who altered 164 statements to divert blame from them to Liverpool fans.

The force said in a statement yesterday: “South Yorkshire Police is currently reviewing a wide variety of matters raised in the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel with a view to making a referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.”
Such a move would typically require South Yorkshire Police to inform the IPCC which officers they felt ought to be investigated. Some 195 who were on duty at Hillsborough, which is home to Sheffield Wednesday, are still employed by the force.

Bernstein made his own “unreserved apology”, following claims that the FA’s initial statement yesterday morning, which welcomed the panel’s report, did not express contrition or accept responsibility.

“We are deeply sorry this tragedy occurred at a venue the FA selected,” said Bernstein.

“This fixture was played in the FA’s own competition, and on behalf of the Football Association I offer a full and unreserved apology and express sincere condolences to all of the families of those who lost their lives and to everyone connected to the City of Liverpool and Liverpool Football Club.”

Shadow health secretary Burnham, who has petitioned for the disaster to be reinvestigated, called on the FA to explain why it allowed Hillsborough to host the FA Cup semi-final in question when it did not have the appropriate safety certificate.

“The FA need to ask themselves some serious questions. The main one is: why did they allow a semi-final to be played at a ground without a valid safety certificate?” said Burnham. “I don’t think there’s an answer that people can accept because I think it was because of negligence of people’s safety.”

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, said: “We welcome the apology but the one thing that makes me angry is that we have had to wait for this report to come out before we get all the apologies that should have been made a long time ago.”