LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - The Football Association welcomed the publication of an independent report into the Hillsborough tragedy and has “changed immeasurably” since English football’s darkest day when 96 Liverpool fans died in a crush.
Prime Minister David Cameron made a public apology to the families of the victims on Wednesday after the report by an independent panel revealed a litany of police cover-ups in the wake of the horrific events at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.
The shocking report said more than 100 statements had been doctored to remove evidence that portrayed the police in a negative light while also revealing a campaign by the authorities to blame Liverpool fans for the disaster.
The victims in the Hillsborough tragedy died in an overcrowded, fenced-in enclosure at Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium. Harrowing images of fans trying to escape the crush and bodies littering the pitch were beamed around the world.
“The FA and English football has changed immeasurably, and has learnt many lessons in the last 23 years,” the FA said in a statement on Thursday.
“Through advancements in safety and investment in facilities English football is now a much safer, more welcoming environment for supporters.”
Hillsborough marked the lowest point in English football, which for decades leading up to the tragedy had been blighted by out-dated facilities and hooliganism, ushering in a new era of modern family-friendly, all-seater stadiums.
”The FA reiterates its deep and ongoing sadness at the dreadful events that unfolded on 15 April 1989.
”The organisation’s thoughts at this time remains with the families of all those who lost their lives in such terrible circumstances, as well as everyone connected with the City of Liverpool.
“For 23 years the families have suffered unbearable pain, and we have profound sympathy for this. The FA has cooperated fully with the Panel throughout this process and has released all documentation in line with their request.”
The FA paid tribute to the grit and determination of families and organisations to help deliver justice.
”Having thoroughly reviewed yesterday’s report in full, the Football Association would like to commend the Hillsborough Independent Panel for their exhaustive and professional work.
”It is also important that the FA recognises the tireless commitment shown by so many, particularly the Hillsborough Family Support Group.
“We welcome the publication of the report and the subsequent comments of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.”
Victims’ families say they are to press for a new inquest into the disaster and criminal charges brought against those responsible.
“The truth is out today, the justice starts tomorrow,” Trevor Hicks, the president of the Hillsborough Family Support Group and father of two teenage victims, said after the publication of the report.
“We will follow every avenue, from prosecution to changing the inquest verdicts. We are not looking for scapegoats, we are looking for accountability, and those responsible should hang their heads in shame.” (Reporting by Martyn Herman, Editing by Tom Pilcher)