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A journalist with 13 years of experience on trade publications covering construction, local government, property, pubs, and transport.
June 28, 2017

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Hillsborough: lessons from a disaster

The Crown Prosecution Service has announced today (28 June) that six people are to be charged over the Hillsborough stadium disaster in 1989.

SHPOnline has covered the incident and the crowd management issues relating to it for many years, and below is a selection of feature articles and opinion pieces on the key issues raised from the horrific disaster, which cost 96 lives.


There have been two reports into the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster. The first was commissioned in the immediate aftermath of the event in April 1989 and undertaken by Lord Justice Taylor.

This report said the main reason for the disaster was a lack of police control. It also called for seating in football grounds, and although it deemed standing to not be ‘intrinsically unsafe’, the government decided to convert terracing and standing areas into all-seater stadiums, revolutionising safety at football grounds and sports arenas across the country.

Home secretary Jack Straw launched a further investigation into the disaster in 1997, undertaken by Lord Justice Stuart-Smith. He claimed there was no basis for a further judicial inquiry or a re-opening of the Taylor inquiry.

But in 2009 the Hillsborough Independent Panel was set-up. This led to a full disclosure and re-assessment of documents and evidence, resulting in the conclusion that crowd safety was compromised at ‘every level’ and that 41 of the 96 victims of the disaster could have been saved if the reactions and co-ordination of the emergency services had been more effective.

In turn, a second coroner’s hearing and an Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation was announced, and this has led to the Crown Prosecution Service charging six individuals with the disaster.

Hillsborough Disaster: 25 years on, we threaten to make the same mistakes

Steve Rotheram, Liverpool Metro Mayor, believes a return to standing sections in football stadiums — driven primarily by nostalgia — could undo all the progress made in the aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster.

It might appear slightly perverse that in the year of the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, some Football League clubs in England are moving towards a return to standing in football…MORE


Sports and events: Crowds and crowded space issues

Professor Chris Kemp, an expert in solutions for crowded space problems, looks at the way crowds react in certain situations, and the importance of planning and risk assessing at events.

The media’s preoccupation with panic as the universal answer to crowded space issues reduces and distorts the way in which the common person views the movement and dynamics of crowds. Often what is termed as collective crowd behaviour is in effect more individualistic and can be explained or defined in a number of ways. Three distinct categorisations and direct influencers often ignored are the time, space and context…MORE

Sports ground safety – safer united


Since the heyday of the Colosseum in Rome, sporting spectacles have attracted large crowds, the management of which is inherently difficult. The tragedies that have occurred at sports stadia in recent memory demonstrate the critical need for effective planning, organisation, control and monitoring of such large gatherings, as Ken Mosley explains.

Ibrox 1971, Valley Parade 1985, Heysel 1985, Hillsborough 1989 — a directory of disaster that will place a chill in the heart of everyone who remembers these names. All were, of course, football-stadium disasters that led to inordinate ‘loss of life’, and all came about as a result of different circumstances. The interim and final ‘Taylor Reports’ into the most recent of them — Hillsborough — published in 1989 and 1990, respectively made recommendations and defined measures that have subsequently made attending events in sports stadia safer, but in the aftermath of any disaster — or accident, for that matter — there will be inevitable accusations and counter-accusations as to responsibility and accountability…MORE

Horse sense 

Ascot racecourseIn the UK, more people attend horse-racing events than go to football matches. As its popularity continues to grow so, too, does the need to ensure that events are managed safely. Louise Smail provides an overview of the requirements of racing and what is being done to address them.

Every year, more than 5.5 million people go to the races and about 9000 races take place. There are 60 licensed racecourses in Great Britain, and two in Northern Ireland. The oldest is Chester Racecourse, which dates to the early 16th century. There are around 9500 active racehorse owners and, overall, some 50,000 people are involved in racehorse ownership. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), which was formed in 2007 by the merger of two existing regulatory bodies, is the governing body of British horse racing…MORE

Crowd management – why a systems approach makes sense


Compiled for the Cabinet Office by researchers from two centres within Leeds University Business School (COSLAC and CSTSD), reports claim that over-reliance on technical and IT solutions means we fail to learn the lessons from past disasters.

The authors say the Understanding Crowd Behaviours reports are the first to bring together sociological and psychological research on events and crowd behaviour, having reviewed more than 550 academic papers and conducted in-depth interviews with 27 specialists in the field (police, emergency planners and event managers) to produce detailed guidelines for event organisers…MORE

Far from the madding crowd

Dr John Drury

Dr John Drury, a social psychologist at Sussex University, describes some of the latest ideas in the field of mass emergency psychology, and how they can inform best practice in crowd management.

Whenever we refer to mass emergencies, disasters, or evacuations a readily-recognisable image often comes to mind: ‘mass panic’. The term encompasses a number of psychological features, including exaggerated perceptions of danger, and instincts for personal survival overwhelming civilised behaviours. The behavioural effects of mass panic are said to include disorder and a lack of coordination. So, in an emergency, rather than filing out in an orderly fashion a crowd will jam a limited exit, struggling with each other in their desperation to escape…MORE

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