Liverpool welcome report

  • Last Updated: September 12 2012, 22:16 BST

Liverpool say their fans have been completely exonerated by the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report into the disaster of 1989.

The panel revealed South Yorkshire Police had sought to blame fans by instructing officers to change or amend their statements relating to the events of April 15, 1989, when 96 Liverpool fans died.

Prime Minister David Cameron apologised to the families of those affected, stressing to the House of Commons that the findings had shown fans were not at fault.

A club statement said: "Liverpool commends the Hillsborough Independent Panel report which acknowledges the avoidable catastrophic failures before, during and after the disaster.

"The club also welcomes the Prime Minister's apology to the families and survivors on behalf of the Government and await the Attorney General's pending review of the report.

"After 23 long and painful years, our fans have finally been fully exonerated of all blame.

"Today, the world knows what we have always known, that Liverpool fans were not just innocent on that terrible day but that there was reprehensible and hurtful misrepresentation of the truth."

Liverpool chairman Tom Werner added that "the world has heard the real truth" about the Hillsborough disaster.

He said: "We hope today's findings will give some comfort to the families and survivors and go some way to addressing some of the key questions that have hung over the Hillsborough tragedy for the last 23 years."

Managing director Ian Ayre admitted he was pleased the myth about fans' alleged involvement in causing the disaster had been exploded once and for all.

He said: "[David Cameron] used the phrase 'double injustice'. Not only for the fact these people died unnecessarily, but the fact a process ensued and dragged their names through the mud."

Ayre said it was, however, a day of mixed emotions for the families of the 96 and everyone involved with the club.

"Firstly [there is] sadness. Sadness that this whole tragedy was avoidable, and that even when it happened more could have been done to save lives," he told liverpoolfc.com.

"Secondly, anger. Anger at the cover-up we now see, and knowing that our fans, the families and victims have been unnecessarily troubled for 23 years because of that.

"And thirdly, pride - because I think anyone connected to Liverpool Football Club can be proud, proud at what the families, our fans around the world and fans of other football clubs have contributed to what we have achieved today."

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, whose 10-year-old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was among the Hillsborough dead, also added his voice to those welcoming the report's findings.

"The courage and dignity shown by the Hillsborough families and survivors is an example to all of us," the England captain said in a statement.

"Speaking as someone whose family directly suffered, I know the pain and hurt will remain.

"However, I hope that today's report helps bring some comfort, now that everyone knows what happened on that day."

Campaigners have now called for the parties responsible for the disaster to be made accountable.

Sheila Coleman, spokesman for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, said: "Words are easy but of course the Hillsborough Justice Campaign welcomes the apologies. But we have had the truth, now it is time for justice.

"Clearly people indulged in criminal activities by changing and altering statements and telling lies.

"If you or I did that we would be prosecuted - people cannot be above the law.

The Footballer Supporters' Federation (FSF) said the report was vindication for fans and their families.

Malcolm Clarke, chair of the FSF, said: "The report exonerates supporters who were victims of a smear campaign by certain elements of the media and senior police officers leading to allegations of drunken, ticketless fans storming the gates at Hillsborough's Leppings Lane End. This was completely untrue.

"The Hillsborough Independent Panel's report is vindication for those who have spent decades fighting for justice for their fellow fans, friends, or family members. Today is their day and their reaction to the report deserves to be listened to with the greatest possible care."

Former sports minister Richard Caborn, who at the time of Hillsborough was MP for Sheffield Central, said: "I hope that now the truth is out that will help people to grieve knowing exactly what happened.

"It is really sad it has taken so long to get this information into the public domain."

The Premier League, which was not formed until three years after the tragedy, issued its own statement on Wednesday evening.

The original Taylor Report into the tragedy in 1990 - while now shown to have been far from the full story - became the catalyst for major changes regarding fan safety at football matches, most noticeably the insistence on all-seater stadia at the highest level, which in turn helped the development of the fledgling Premier League in the years that followed.

Wednesday night's statement said: "The Premier League welcomes the publication of the Independent Panel Report into the tragic events that unfolded at Hillsborough on 15th April 1989 but is saddened that it has taken so long for this information to be made available to the families and friends who lost loved ones.

"The Hillsborough families' campaign has brought this day about and it is through its tireless campaigning, supported by many including Liverpool FC and former Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport Andy Burnham MP, that we now have a fuller understanding of what led to the catastrophe that saw 96 fans die as a result of going to a football match.

"The relationship between fans, the football authorities and government has thankfully moved on radically since those times and the Premier League and English football more widely is committed to continuing to drive standards of ground safety, communication and liaison between supporters and the stakeholders involved in making a matchday as welcoming and safe an environment as possible."