HILLSBOROUGH: Dead - because they didn't count
Daily Mirror columnist and lifelong Liverpool fan Brian Reade was a reporter for the Daily Post back in 1989 and wrote this account of the tragedy two days later.
Nearly 100 people lost their lives on Saturday - because they didn't count.
They didn't count because they were football fans and in the eyes of authority, and indeed the general public, that placed them beneath contempt.
As I watched young policemen frantically trying to pump life back into corpses on ripped advertising hoardings, the shattering numbness of that night in Brussels returned.
There was a difference. In Belgium we were riddled with guilt and shame. At Sheffield it was just deep, deep pain.
But as men slumped heavily into their seats around me and threw their heads into their hands, the same angry word was being spat out through the tears: WHY?
The answer is: Because you don't count. Because society has allowed itself to view the football fan as a moronic caricature. And the people who make decisions are happy to play along with this image because it makes their jobs easier.
Take the police on Saturday. Because of them, for the second year running, 28,000 tickets were allocated to Nottingham Forest, whose average attendance is 20,000 while 24,000 tickets were given to Liverpool whose average gate is 39,000.
There were ticket problems last year and they were forseeable this time. The fans complained and Liverpool FC complained to the FA and to the police. Nothing changed. The decision stood. For "safety reasons."
It depends on your definition of safety. Mine does not include cramming one end of a ground while leaving enough space to play five-a-side on the opposite terracing.
On Saturday afternoon as I looked down at the heart-breaking sight of bodies piled up on the pitch below me, to my left there were clear gaps in the huge bank which had been set aside for the Nottingham Forest fans.
The families of the dead will not agree with the police idea of safety, especially as many policemen were assigned elsewhere. Ensuring safety.
As the Liverpool fans drove off the M1 they were greeted by 20 to 30 police who pulled them off the road and searched their cars, vans and coaches for drink. For safety reasons. On the main road into the city all pubs were shut. For safety reasons.
Your civil liberties go out of the window if you happen to have football in your blood.
Outside the ground this year police say they saw large queues forming, so they opened the gate. For safety reasons.
Inside the ground when people turned blue as the life was crushed out of them they pleaded with the police to let them out. But they were kept in their cages. For safety reasons.
When people needed medical help as they lay on the pitch drifting near to death, the response of the police was to form a line round the terraces and across the pitch, and to bring on the Alsations. For safety reasons.
The Alsations got into the ground but the ambulances didn't. Dozens more police were drafted in but the doctors and nurses weren't.
There was no shortage of boys in blue in the stadium but there was a critical shortage of oxygen machines.
But then this was only a football match. You wouldn't expect the authorities to have any contingency plans for dealing with people being crushed to death in a 50,000 crowd.
No. Just keep the animals in check in their cages. That's all you've got to worry about. That way there'll be no trouble and everyone will be safe. And if there is trouble, well, they'll probably deserve it. They're only football fans. They're only hooligans.
I'm not critical of the average policeman who was on duty on Saturday. I saw many trying to save life and comfort the bereaved.
But I'm criticising their bosses. I'm criticising the people on very big salaries who sit around tables making decisions.
I'm criticising a society, led by a government, which has lost touch with what a real football fan is. You know football. The national sport. Watched by millions of normal people every year - 99 per cent of whom are as violent as the average crowd at The Odeon.
Authority hasn't listened to football fans. It hasn't wanted to. It hasn't had to. Because society has been happy to live with the myth that every football fan is a potential criminal.
Well nearly 100 people have just paid the price for this woeful misconception.
This article was first published in the Daily Post on April 17, 1989 - two days after the Hillsborough tragedy.
Brian Reade is a columnist for the Daily Mirror and author of '43 Years With The Same Bird'.