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The jury has returned its verdict in the long-running Hillsborough Inquest, finding that the deaths of 96 football fans at an FA Cup Semi Final 27 years ago were unlawful. BBC News reports:
Ninety-six football fans who died as a result of a crush in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster were unlawfully killed, the inquests have concluded.
The jury decided the match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield's actions amounted to "gross negligence" due to a breach of his duty of care to fans.
Police errors also added to a dangerous situation at the FA Cup semi-final.
After a 27-year campaign by victims' families, the behaviour of Liverpool fans was exonerated.
The jury found they did not contribute to the danger unfolding at the turnstiles.
Bournemouth University offers a timeline of football stadium safety since the tragedy:
1990: Justice Lord Taylor publishes the Taylor Report into the causes of Hillsborough. The report concludes that the blame should mostly lie with the police control of spectators on the day. It suggests a number of recommendations to improve football stadia in England to avoid such a tragedy happening again. These included all grounds in English football to be all-seater.
1991: The government creates the Football Licensing Authority to oversee stadium safety and ensure that spectators at matches were not at risk.
1992: The measures to enforce every football club in England to have all-seater stadiums are lessened so that only teams from the top two divisions have to comply.
In a 2014 piece for The Conversation, University of Brighton researcher Chris Cocking suggested the key lesson from the disaster is to not fear crowds:
A common theme emerges runs through this catalogue of mistakes: that football matches and crowd events in general in the 1980s were too often seen as a public order problem, instead of a public safety issue. This is explicitly stated in the report, which concluded that at Hillsborough, “the collective policing mindset prioritised crowd control over crowd safety.”
Along with others involved in the study of crowd emergency behaviour and safety management, I am very critical of such approaches. As John Fruin has written, there is a clear difference between crowd control and crowd management:
Crowd management is defined as the systematic planning for, and supervision of, the orderly movement and assembly of people. Crowd control is the restriction or limitation of group behaviour.
This is not just a semantic issue. As John Drury wrote after the independent panel report was published, “Approaching the crowd with a view to crowd control risks undermining crowd safety.” This emphasis on “crowd control” directly contributed to the disaster at Hillsborough.
In ActaSociological in 2011, Ramón Spaaij & John Hughson explored the Hillsborough tragedy as cultural trauma:
Previous tragedies have occurred at British football grounds, involving a large number of deaths. These occasions understandably result in considerable public upset, including questions about gross safety inadequacies. The initial grief response can be observed at a national level, even internationally to some extent given the spread of both football (the ‘world game’) and British e´migre´s. However, as time passes and other news items occupy media space, public grief tends to decline. But public grief, defined as collectively experienced feelings and cognitions of loss (e.g. Corr, 2003), can continue at local, civic or regional levels subsequent to the disappearance of any such grief in the broader national context. Such is the case with Hillsborough, where a localized or civic public grieving has continued since April 1989. There are a number of reasons for the continuation of a high level of public grief in regard to Hillsborough, including an ongoing dissatisfaction with a perceived failure of the justice system to hold the Sheffield police accountable for their handling of the crowd gathering on the tragic afternoon.
Ulster University's Centre For Media Research published a report focusing on how the media reported the 2012 Hillsborough Panel findings, which started the process leading to the new inquest. For some parts of the media, the findings proved especially difficult:
And of course there was the Sun. Twenty-three years after its infamous front page headline ‘The Truth’, it now declared ‘The Real Truth’ and bullet pointed the key findings of the Panel Report. It also previewed its editorial apology with a line that echoed the Prime Minister’s apology in the Commons: ‘The Sun – We are profoundly sorry for false reports’. This, along with a grovelling apology the day 3 before from Kelvin McKenzie, the editor responsible for the original coverage, cut little ice with the Hillsborough Family Support Group, which banned the newspaper from its media conference held after the publication of the Panel report.
McKenzie’s demand only two weeks later (26 September) that South Yorkshire Police apologize to him for feeding him disinformation in the wake of the disaster illustrated once again the fatal lack of judgement that led him to believe the lies in the first place. And while his old newspaper will continue to be boycotted on Merseyside for quite some time to come, its woeful reporting of the Hillsborough disaster pales in comparison with the conduct of senior officers of South Yorkshire Police. Although the Panel Report also indicted South Yorkshire Ambulance and Fire Services for similar failings and for amending incriminating states after the fact, the media’s principal focus was on this police constabulary as the chief culprit in the disaster.
How do members of the caring professions react when faced with a catastrophic, chaotic scene? The experience of Tom Heller, a doctor who lived near Hillsborough, is explored as part of our course Care Relationships:
The doctors in the hall grouped together, almost silent, all wondering what to do next. I left the hall and walked through the silent crowds back to my car. I went home stunned and numbed. My children were playing in the garden; it was all so lovely and normal. Sandpits and skipping ropes. I had not known any of the dead and injured. Why is a major disaster so important for the people who participate as helpers? I meet death almost every day of my working life. Was this worse, or was it just larger numbers?
Following on from yesterday's events, when BHS was put into administration, came the news that the company charged with salvaging the store chain are hoping to find a buyer. But, warns Robert MacIntosh, a purchaser would need nerves of steel:
Though a rescue package is workable in principle, the business has changed ownership multiple times. Perhaps most notably Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group paid £200m for BHS in 2000 before selling it for £1 in 2015 to City investment vehicle Retail Acquisitions. As a recognised retail mogul whose other brands include Topshop, Burton and Evans, even Green couldn’t turn BHS around.
And he certainly wasn’t the first to fail: long before his involvement, Habitat and Mothercare had been merged into the same ownership structure as BHS. This wasn’t a recipe for success either. As the administrators begin the search for someone to take on the business as a going concern, this chequered past will be a headache. If it were easy to turn the business around, earlier attempts might have met with more success.
This week, we're starting every morning with a brief profile of people who have achieved fame enough to have an airport named after them. Yesterday, we checked in at Julio Cesar Ribeiro de Sousa. Today, we're heading for Leoš Janáček Airport Ostrava in the Czech Republic.
The airport has a long heritage - early flight pioneers The Žurovec brothers experimented with surplus First World War planes close by; during the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939 the German army used the land as an airfield. However, it wasn't until 1956 that constuction on a civilian airport was started on what, by then, had reverted to agricultural use. The airport proper was inaugurated in 1959; it now handles over quarter of a million internal and international passengers every year.
And the man whose name graces the complex?
Leoš Janáček is probably best known as a composer, but also worked as a folklorist, a musical theorist and a teacher. That's the second airport named after a teacher in a row, you'll note.
Born in 1854, in Moravia (at the time part of the Austrian Empire), his first great musical success was the opera Jenůfa. Premiered in 1904, and lauded for its deft melding of Czech folklore traditions and the influence of Dvorak, it would nevertheless not be until 1918 that Jenůfa was performed in Vienna. From that point, though, Leoš moved up from regional hero to international star.
Arguably the foremost writer of operas in the 20th Century, perhaps his greatest known work is The Cunning Little Vixen.
His death was tinged with a level of operatic tragedy afterfinding love with a younger woman in later life, Kamila Stösslová. She was 38 years younger than Leoš. The relationship brought a son, and inspired a renewed intensity in Leos' work. However, when the boy - Otto - went missing, the 74 year-old composer set out to search for him. The exertions in the freezing winter contracted pneumonia; ultimately, in 1928, the pneumonia proved fatal. His place of death? A hospice in Ostrava.