Ever since the events at Hillsborough in 1989 there have been questions surrounding the decisions taken by police commander Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield on that day in April. His lack of experience with crowd control at stadiums has often been highlighted, notably the fact that he only had one year’s worth of experience policing at Hillsborough. In addition, any experience he might have had would have been policing during regular season matches at the ground, something that was not remotely comparable with an FA Cup semi-final featuring #Liverpool.
Today, the FA Cup semi-final may not hold the importance it did back in 1989, add to that the fact that English clubs had been banned from all European competitions for five yeas in 1985 following the Heysel Stadium disaster, meaning the FA Cup took on a whole new level of prestige.
Due to this, policing at Hillsborough required extreme attention to detail, something Duckenfield was unable to provide.
At the current inquiry into the death of the 96 Liverpool fans, the court heard Duckenfield admit that he was not the best man for the job. The 70-year-old went on to highlight that not only did he have no knowledge of capacities at Hillsborough Stadium, and failed to realise the potential dangers of crush situations in the pens. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, Duckenfield claimed he had no knowledge of a previous crush in the pens at the Leppings Lane stand during the FA Cup semi-final between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers. He claimed that knowledge of the previous incident would have aided him in controlling the situation in 1989. Finally, Duckenfield stressed that he broke under the pressure of the situation and attempting to get the fans into the ground in time for kick-off, explaining that delaying the start of the match never crossed his mind.
As the inquiry continues, it is clear that Duckenfield and the South Yorkshire police’s failures were numerous across the board and that all present severely lacked preparation and experience.