Football can arouse great passion amongst its supporters - and there is a long, ignoble history of that passion spilling over into violence. For many years, the English game was blighted by the activities of football hooligans who used the cover of football matches to engage in pitched battles of terrifying ferocity. Liverpool fans were generally considered to be among the most peaceable of fans until the horrible tragedy of Heysel - in which a collapsing wall killed 39 Juventus supporters following a battle between them and Liverpool fans.
The events that transpired on the occasion of the 1989 FA cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were, however, of an entirely different order. A series of blunders by police led to the awful deaths of 96 supporters - much of the incident playing live to horrified television viewers at home.
As if the horror suffered by the bereaved families was not enough, the police engaged in a campaign to exculpate officers from blame - and manipulated the media and official evidence to suggest that the deaths resulted not from mismanagement, but from violence and drunken behaviour on the part of the Liverpool fans. It was not until 2012 and the publication of the report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel that the full scale of police malfeasance was laid bare. It was discovered that scores of witness statements and police records had been altered to back up the police's 'official' version of events.
Many of those responsible for the events of that day went on to more senior roles with the police and as the time of writing none have faced criminal charges.
Within minutes the pitch was covered with people fleeing the Leppings Lane stand and seeking help. The emergency services were overwhelmed by the scale of events, and stymied by police errors.
The crowd begins to spill onto the pitch. By this point, dozens of people were already past help.
Crowds at Hillsborough as the disaster unfolded.
BBC live news coverage
The Irish television station RTE covered the match live as the disaster unfolded
David Cameron apologises for the Hillsborough disaster
Further reading and recommended books
Police disaster report 'suppressed A report by a senior South Yorkshire police officer involved in the planning of the 1989 FA Cup semi-final was "suppressed", the inquests have heard. [BBC]
Police cover-up 'known for years' Files detailing police cover-ups over the Hillsborough disaster were given to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) 14 years ago, it has been claimed.
Alun Jones QC led a private prosecution for manslaughter against senior police officers who were in charge when 96 Liverpool fans died in April 1989. [BBC]
Margaret Thatcher wanted police failures toned down MARGARET Thatcher rejected criticism of the bungling police force behind the Hillsborough disaster and cover-up, explosive documents reveal.
Papers released by the Hillsborough Independent Panel show the then PM ordered the Government’s response to the Taylor report in August 1989 to be toned down so it would not appear to attack South Yorkshire Police. [Daily Record]
Warning of cover-up was ignored by judge A police constable on duty on the day of Hillsborough warned a judge-led inquiry into the disaster that there was a co-ordinated cover-up by South Yorkshire Police about failings of senior officers at the stadium, documents have revealed for the first time. [Independent]
Police Corruption, Cover Ups and Miscarriages of Justice