EDITOR'S CHAIR: Why the post-Hillsborough fight for justice should matter to us all.
96, made up of fans scarves, fills the centre circle before the Hillsborough 25th Anniversary Memorial Service at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 15, 2014. See PA story SOCCER Hillsborough. Photo credit sh
I'LL declare an interest right at the beginning of this piece.
I have been a supporter of Liverpool Football Club for more than 40 years. A signed photograph of Steven Gerrard holding the Champions League trophy aloft in 2005 takes pride of place in my office.
Despite being nearly 50, I still hero worship Kenny Dalglish. So my allegiances are clear.
The Hillsborough disaster has a special resonance for all Liverpool supporters.
Most of us know someone who was at the FA Cup semi-final in April 1989.
Thankfully, the three people I know who were at the game all came home safe. They were lucky. But 96 poor souls were not.
The day of the tragedy remains fresh in my mind. I watched in horror as the death toll mounted and the Saturday TV sports show Grandstand became an early example of a rolling news channel.
The days that followed involved many telephone calls to and from Liverpool-supporting friends - remember this was in the days before everyone had emails and mobile phones - checking who had been there, who hadn't, and that everyone was all right.
But you do not have to be a Liverpool fan to understand the importance of Hillsborough and of the fight for justice that has continued for 25 years.
At the weekend, every football club in England's top eight divisions marked the 25th anniversary of the disaster.
All matches started seven minutes late after a minute's silence six minutes after the scheduled kick-off time, marking the fact that the Liverpool versus Nottingham Forest match at Hillsborough 25 years ago was abandoned at 3.06pm.
Tributes across the country were impeccably observed by all fans at all matches.
I took part in two tributes - one before Newport County's youth team played Exeter City on Saturday morning and the other before the first team took on Wycombe Wanderers at Rodney Parade in the afternoon. Both set the hairs on the back of my neck on end.
County's singing section of fans broke into a brief rendition of 'Justice for the 96' at the end of the minute's silence. I noticed some online debate about this among County supporters before the match.
One contributor said he would not join in such a chant because he would be at the match to support Newport County not Liverpool.
He misses the point quite spectacularly.
The Hillsborough disaster could have happened to the supporters of any club. Complaints had been made about crowd control and the overcrowding of the Leppings Lane end more than two years before the disaster.
Everything that has happened since Hillsborough is not about Liverpool fans. It is about football fans, whatever their allegiance.
Any football fan aged under 30 will not remember the way football supporters were treated at matches. Shoved into pens, imprisoned on the terraces by fencing.
Hillsborough was a disaster waiting to happen. That it happened to Liverpool fans is, in some ways, immaterial.
The fight for justice that has followed should be applauded by every right-thinking member of our society.
Again, that battle is not about Liverpool fans. It is about the way in which the authorities colluded in an enormous cover-up, insisting that every corpse was tested for alcohol, blaming their own failings on people who could no longer defend themselves.
Speakers at Tuesday's dignified yet passionate memorial service at Anfield were warned to be careful what they said to avoid prejudicing the new inquests now taking place in Warrington. They did so.
But how ironic that those who have fought for a quarter of a century to expose the injustice and scandal of Hillsborough now have to be careful with their words, when those who played the biggest part in dragging things out for 25 years - the police, politicians and The Sun - were never careful with theirs.
My admiration for people like Trevor Hicks, Margaret Aspinall and the late Anne Williams knows no bounds.
They are modern heroes and the day draws ever closer when they get what they deserve. Justice for the 96.
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