The legacy of Hillsborough: Liberating truth, challenging power

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25 Citations (Scopus)


In April 1989, ninety-six men, women and children, supporters of Liverpool Football Club, died in a severe crush at an FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield. Hundreds were injured and thousands traumatised. Within hours, the causes and circumstances of the disaster were contested. While a judicial inquiry found serious institutional failures in the policing and management of the capacity crowd, no criminal prosecutions resulted, and the inquests returned ‘accidental death’ verdicts. Immediately, the authorities claimed that drunken, violent fans had caused the fatal crush. Denied legitimacy, survivors’ accounts revealed a different story criticising the parlous state of the stadium, inadequate stewarding, negligent policing, failures in the emergency response and flawed processes of inquiry and investigation. Reflecting on two decades of research and contemporaneous interviews with bereaved families and survivors, this article contrasts the official discourse with those alternative accounts – the ‘view from below’. It demonstrates the influence of powerful institutional interests on the inquiries and investigations. It maps the breakthrough to full documentary disclosure following the appointment of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, its research and key findings published in September 2012. The campaigns by families and survivors were vindicated and the fans, including those who died, were exonerated. The process is discussed as an alternative method for liberating truth, securing acknowledgement and pursuing justice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
JournalRace and Class
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2013


  • football, Hillsborough Disaster, Hillsborough Family Support Group, Hillsborough Independent Panel, inquests, Liverpool fans, South Yorkshire Police, Stuart-Smith Scrutiny, Taylor Report, West Midlands Police

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • General Social Sciences
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology


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