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Hillsborough disaster anniversary: heartbreaking loss, but 23 years later the game is better for the response

Apr 15, 2012, 12:00 PM EDT

Hillsborough

It has been 23 years exactly since the game changed forever in England.

Such a terrible shame that it took heartbreaking loss to force much-needed action in the way supporters watch soccer there.

On April 15, 1989, a total of 96 people died because they went to a match to support their team. The Hillsborough disaster of that awful day still reverberates so meaningfully.

Ninety-four fans died at the site during the notorious FA Cup semifinal. A 14-year-old boy died four days later and yet another supporter died four years later, having been in a coma the entire time. In total, 766 people were injured.

A subsequent inquiry into the horror by Lord Justice Taylor blamed police decisions and crowd control failures at a devastating level. The Taylor Report simultaneously provided cathartic vindication, following initial reports that cruelly attached blame onto “drunkenness” among Liverpool supporters.

But from all those awful events did come some good. As England’s Guardian explains:

Hillsborough and its consequences changed forever the way supporters watched football in England. Taylor’s report condemned the primitive conditions in which spectators were expected to watch their teams. The result was a dramatic switch to all-seat stadiums and the abolition of perimeter fences which, as Hillsborough demonstrated, could turn grounds into death traps when people had no means of escape.”

A comprehensive report on the events of Hillsborough Stadium from The Guardian is here. (The story is from 2009, on Hillsborough’s 20th anniversary.)

And a terrific, revealing graphic from the BBC helps demonstrate exactly how things went wrong, how tragic decisions that day created a crush of fans into one small area.

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