Soccer-Police chiefs apologise for Hillsborough failures after 34 years

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Liverpool v Benfica - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - April 13, 2022 General view as Liverpool fans hold up signs in reference to the 97 victims of the Hillsborough disaster inside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

(Reuters) - Britain's National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) and College of Policing have apologised to survivors and the families of the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough soccer stadium disaster in which 97 Liverpool supporters lost their lives in a crush.

The 1989 FA Cup semi-final was the scene of Britain's worst sporting disaster when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in an over-crowded and fenced-in enclosure in the lower tier.

One victim died in July 2021 after suffering severe and irreversible brain damage.

Police at first blamed the disaster on drunken fans, an explanation that was always rejected by survivors, relatives of the victims and the wider Liverpool community who spent years fighting to find out what had happened.

Later inquests and an independent inquiry absolved the fans of any responsibility.

"Policing has profoundly failed those bereaved by the Hillsborough disaster over many years and we are sorry that the service got it so wrong," Chief Constable Andy Marsh, CEO of the College of Policing, said in a statement.

"Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy and have continued to blight the lives of family members ever since.

"When leadership was most needed, the bereaved were often treated insensitively and the response lacked coordination and oversight."

Martin Hewitt, the NPCC Chair, said he was "deeply sorry for the tragic loss of life" and for the "pain and suffering that the families of the 97 victims experienced on that day" and in the years that followed.

"Collectively, the changes made since the Hillsborough disaster and in response to Rt Reverend James Jones's report aim to ensure the terrible police failures made on the day and in the aftermath can never happen again," he added.

In 2019, former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, the police commander in charge of operations at the stadium, was found not guilty of manslaughter - a decision that had shocked the survivors and family members of the victims.

Earlier this month, Newcastle United fans complained of "overcrowding and crushing" and a lack of stewarding at the Hillsborough Stadium during their FA Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday at the same Leppings Lane End.

The British government's sports stadium safety regulator also announced a review into complaints.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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