Irresponsible Police Nearly Create Another Hillsborough

Guest post by David Griffith, also known as Blind Hammer.

CrushBlind Hammer asks if the Police have really learnt any lessons from Hillsborough.

I, along with dozens of other West Ham supporters nearly sustained serious injury last night. As it happens my guide and I were lucky to escape with only minor leg injuries. At one stage it became only too apparent to me how the deaths at Hillsborough occurred.

Before discussing my experiences I need to make two caveats. First people who throw anything at opposition coaches are idiots, probably drunken idiots, who need to be banned for life. The other caveat is that as a blind person I am reliant on others description of events. However it is obvious to anybody who was there that there was a complete Police mismanagement of
the whole incident. Yet again the Police failed to grasp the dangers of poor crowd control. In their panicky and crude attempt to prevent damage to a Manchester United coach they created a crush which imperilled the life and wellbeing of dozens, perhaps hundreds of supporters. Their only approach was to see the crowd as a threat which needed to be penned in and kettled, as opposed to a collection of people with various needs. Around me were women who were clearly distressed, fathers desperately trying to protect their children by placing them on the shoulders to escape the crush, as well as frailer older people who were clearly struggling to cope.

This hostile kettle and containing approach of the police, apparently replicated after the game by the appearance of police looking menacingly at us from behind riot shields again made it clear that all they were concerned about was containing us as a threat. At no time did the police appear to want to see us as anything but a mob of animals to be herded. I did not hear a single attempt by the police to communicate anything to the crowd.

This was completely irresponsible crowd management.

There are basic ways the police could have improved matters.

1.      Communicated with the crowd by megaphone that the match was to be delayed. This would have reduced the pressure from the back by people trying to push through in a misplace panic that they would miss the game.

2.      The police rather than just prioritising lining up to protect the bodywork of the coach should also have been working to protect the wellbeing of people in the crowd. In their sole concern to protect the coach body work, at no time, were the Manchester United players in danger, they showed no concern as to people possibly at risk in the crowd. Basic investigation
and communication with those in the crowd would have revealed this risk.

3.       The police should have been using megaphone / tannoy announcement to redirect supporters from the back of the crowd to move back away from the crush.

4.       The police should have advised people of actually what was happening. This may have sobered some of the more drunken people oblivious to the developing situation around them.

5.      The crush would have been reduced if people were redirected by megaphone away from all the Green Street entrances to the ground to entrances along alternative routes. The person I sat next to gained access to the ground with ease simply because he did not approach via Green Street.

6.       The Police should have communicated to the crowd exiting the tube not to join the crush down Green Street but to approach from the other side of the ground.

It is clear that the extent of the crowds outside the Boleyn last night surprised nearly everybody and the Manchester United coach appearing at a ridiculously late time did not help the situation, they appear to making a habit of this, having also caused a delayed kick off at Tottenham recently, but the management of the situation outside the ground was appalling.

I think it is stupid and regrettable that a coach window gets cracked on an opposition coach, my guide suggested that things only got really hostile after the crush started with the coach blocking access for thousands into the ground, but this is to an extent irrelevant. At no stage should missiles have been thrown at the coach, even if there was provocation.

However, the Police must demonstrate they have the basic competence to learn the lessons of Hillsborough. Their panicky reactions to an incident last night, protecting the bodywork of a coach, created a situation where life and limb of supporters were potentially at risk. We may well have been remembering the events of last night as a tragedy rather than a celebration. I suspect that if this had happened there would have been another Hillsborough like attempt to blame the fans.

Our thanks to David Griffith for his article on the events. David often posts articles on WestHamTillIDie.com under the names Blind Hammer. 

David’s views are entirely his own and not necessarily shared by ClaretandHugh


About Sean Whetstone

I am Season Ticket Holder in West stand lower at the London Stadium and before that, I used to stand in the Sir Trevor Brooking Lower Row R seat 159 in the Boleyn Ground and in the Eighties I stood on the terraces of the old South Bank. I am a presenter on the West Ham Podcast called MooreThanJustaPodcast.co.uk. A Blogger on WestHamTillIdie.com a member of the West Ham Supporters Advisory Board (SAB), Founder of a Youtube channel called Mr West Ham Football at http://www.youtube.com/MrWestHamFootball, I am also the associate editor here at Claret and Hugh. Life Long singer of bubbles! Come on you Irons! Follow me at @Westhamfootball on twitter

3 comments on “Irresponsible Police Nearly Create Another Hillsborough

  1. It was very fortunate more injuries didnt happen. Thank God everyone escaped without real injury or physical damage

  2. Nicely put. The West Ham team bus was late enough – and took forty minutes to get from Barking Road to the stadium gate – but trying to force any coach through a crowd that had nowhere to disperse to could only ever end in stupidity or tragedy. Better the situation was brought to a head with a broken bus window than fans crushed. I don’t condone bottling the bus, but the actual outcome was infinitely better than the potential disaster we came so close to.

    And whose bright idea was it to keep the turnstiles closed until 7pm? Thousands stuck in Castle Street with nowhere to go being pressured from Green Street for an hour was a recipe for trouble. And why no attempt to broadcast the delay in kick-off time? I’d rushed to my seat thinking I was late when someone mentioned it had been delayed. Disgraceful policing and very poor organisation from the club that marred a great occasion.

  3. Thanks for the first hand account, hope you feel better soon. Maybe if you provide this to the MET they may act on it, although likely they will continue to do what they always do, they have plan A and if plan A doesn’t work they will go to plan A, kettling and sometimes physically abusing innocent bystanders so that some “VIP’s” will not get hurt…

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