Hillsborough Stadium Disaster Memorials – Sheffield, England - Atlas Obscura
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Sheffield, England

Hillsborough Stadium Disaster Memorials

Three memorials honor the victims of the worst sports stadium disaster in Britain. 

The FA Cup soccer semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was held on April 15, 1989, at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium, a neutral venue. When police made the unfortunate choice to open the stadium gates during the game, a total of 96 Liverpool supporters were killed in a crowd crush, and hundreds more injured.

The disaster was caused by a combination of high fences surrounding the pitch and a mistake by South Yorkshire Police, who ordered the opening of a gate to the stadium in an attempt to prevent crowd trouble outside it. This resulted in a rush into the Leppings Lane Stand where as usual, spectators stood behind the goal to watch the game rather than being seated.

The resulting massive pressure caused the victims to be crushed against the perimeter fence and the so-called crush barriers. All of this unfolded on live TV, causing great distress, particularly to those who knew loved ones were in the stadium.

This disaster stayed in the news for many years as relatives of the dead fought tirelessly to overturn the original inquest verdicts, which attributed blame to the Liverpool fans and apportioned none to the police or Sheffield Wednesday FC. This original verdict resulted, in part, from collusion between police officers while preparing their witness statements.

In April, 2016, a second inquest finally recorded a verdict that the 96 victims were unlawfully killed. This disaster triggered a change in the law in the U.K., mandating all-seating stadiums for top flight soccer clubs.

The memorial closest to the stadium was unveiled on the 10th anniversary of the incident in 1999. As with most memorials to this event, it contains a line from the Liverpool supporters’ anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Despite the passage of time, visitors to the memorial still place tributes such as club shirts and scarves to the victims. The monument is visited soccer fans from Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield, and around the world, particularly around the anniversary of the disaster.

Nearby, in Hillsborough Park, is the quiet and peaceful Hillsborough Disaster Memorial Garden. It is intended as a place of reflection for visiting relatives and friends of the victims. Walking distance away, on Middlewood Road, is another memorial erected by local traders just after the event. This memorial also attracts the deposit of many tributes. 

In the city of Liverpool there are several other memorials.