hillsborough

Hillsborough

From an Owls Fan.

Twenty seven years ago I watched the Hillsborough FA cup semi-final on television, as did countless football fans. Of course football fans were labelled pariahs at the time, Margaret Thatcher had labelled us so, as had most of the press, and she had insisted on barriers in stadia, and exhorted tightly policed matches. It was intimidating when police horses moved straight at you, to control us, when all we were doing was queuing to go in?   All the trouble was outside the stadia,  after or before matches,  arranged by people who decided to fight each other at designated fight locations away from the match. They weren’t bothered about seeing the matches. They chose to fight, they weren’t fans.  I knew some in these gangs, so-called Shed or Den brothers,  they had good jobs, loads of money, often they  voted Tory, but one thing they shared, they didn’t know or care about football, not even their own avowed team.

The unfolding slaughter of innocent Liverpool fans was witnessed by the world, and yet, when the minds of the public were given a model of how to see events,  it was amazing how the public, most of the press, and television, were swayed  to reinterpret what was before their very eyes .

The continuing cover-up  of Hillsborough was abhorrent, through inquest, investigations, further articles in the right wing press,  and numerous declarations by politicians. Does it remind you of Bloody Sunday, Rodney King, or Death on the Rock, need I continue. The British, and so far as I am anything I am by birth British, the British have a great facility for turning a blind eye, and kicking away any difficult question of the truth into the long grass with official enquiries, one after the other if necessary, to the point that no-one can remember anything, and so then the public doesn’t care any more. But in this case the people of Liverpool still cared and stood firm, as did all football fans. We stood  with them.

Even now we hear voices of the South Yorkshire police extolling the same line, Liverpool fans were out of control and so to blame.  Yet the true facts have finally been officially acknowledged ,  then why did it take twenty seven years,  when it was there for everyone to see at the time?  How can you so easily create the mindset of a democratic nation to ignore the evidence? Why are the English, and I say the English because I don’t see the same simple acquiescence to belief in the Welsh, or the Scots,  so why are we, the English,  so quick to want to believe non-sense.

There is a terrible servitude that runs deep in the English, a servitude that they can buy into the idea that they are better, than others, than their compatriots.  Somehow even if English people are not part of the establishment, the elite, nevertheless,  they are happy to  align themselves with country, monarch, and  establishment,  and so become superior. It easy to pull this trick when people have a good income, and are encouraged to look down on others, whether those they look down on are working class Liverpool supporters, football fans or foreigners.   We are seeing the same chauvinism now, we don’t take refugees. Never mind their human rights.  They are all economic migrants,  aren’t they?

I won’t go into the liaison between the behaviour of the Yorkshire police in the miner’s strike and their dereliction of duty at Hillsborough.  Nor the cover-up afterwards and the need for secrecy inherent in this society evidenced by many failures to investigate properly abuses of justice. My question is why is this the nature of an apparent democratic society.  Why are the English people so readily able to look away?

In the past it has been easy to explain. Like all colonialist history,  it has been taught omitting the atrocities perpetrated.  But the idea of the greatness of the English people is still being  propagated now. So it is better not to tell it all, because this would prove the lie of superiority, of greatness.  Greatness demands a need for unity at all costs, and it is a single unity of allegiance – not a pluralist idea of a community with a diversity of need, or a diversity life.  Margaret Thatcher said there is no such thing as society, but instead this nationalistic exceptionalism has come to the fore with a vengeance, showing itself, as in other countries, again here now.

It is all very well to have a democratic political system that is not proportional, and so allows one party or the other to take complete  power,  to the exclusion of any kind of minority voices, but this inhibits  discussion and thinking. If you are English you have to be on one side or the other.  The two sides have a begrudging respect for each other, like Tweedledum and Tweedledee.  For the Liverpool activists or against them.   In or out.  Don’t bother to actually find out.

Even the BBC is drawn into this kind of coverage, argument rather than understanding. There is no documentary money left for investigation. A friend of mine from France said of Question Time, why do they address a question for only five minutes? Don’t they want to try and understand anything? The answer may be no-one wants to look beyond drama and conflict. It gets good viewing figures, and enquiry might challenge the superiority of all of us, we would rather be shallow but have a strong opinion.  We just want to believe we are right, never mind the facts, and truth is what we choose to believe,  isn’t it?

Unfortunately it isn’t that simple, as the Liverpool supporters have proved. No-one expected a bunch of working class football supporters to fight for twenty seven years. Then that’s something the establishment never understood about football supporters. And our game in the meantime has taken over the world. It is even rooting out the corruption of the elite who try to run it.  It is the game of the people, world-wide, and for good reasons. In the end it is the game that matters more than any one result, one team, to every one of us. It is a shame English political culture doesn’t get it too.  Football has a league of teams, we love the matches, but more important is the nature of the game, and the fact that the philosophies of the teams are different, with players from all over the world playing.  And the whole world is sympathetic to Liverpool too, and here now we all love Leicester!  Do you have to wonder why?

Photo courtesy of Brian Ledgard 

Paul Gallagher

I was a script consultant on feature films including, 'The Bird Catcher' [2017],‘Starred Up’ [2013]and ‘Desiree [2016].My company Twelvechairsfilms.com is developing a number of film projects and we are looking for new ideas , Check out the site,

I've had many short stories, poems, and articles published, and a book '‘Dancing In the Waves'’ [Mer 1998].For ten years I was editor of ‘Screenwriter magazine.

Ihave run European writing workshops and lead the MA Screenwriting programme at Birkbeck College,, London University.I founded and am on the board of Euroscript, the UK's premier independent script training company.My full profile is on www.paulgallagher.eu
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One comment

  1. Thank you for an honest reminder. I’m not a football fan. Nevertheless, the larger issue is how we are manipulated. This week we learned how TTIP will get its pernicious grip. Only Channel 4 has investigated the recent scandal of the Tories abusing the financial rules in the last Gereral Election. It influenced the result. As you point out, we love to ignore uncomfortable truths and Hillsborough should be remembered as lesson on how it works and how working people are sacrificed.

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