On 15th April 1989 fans of two great football teams, Nottingham Forest and Liverpool, descended on Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield to watch their team play in the semi-final of the FA Cup. Whilst fans of both teams would have been prepared for the possibility that they would need to head home after a heartbreaking defeat, none of them would have considered the possibility that some of them wouldn’t get home alive.
96 Liverpool fans would die and hundreds more were left physically injured in what was and still is the biggest sporting tragedy in UK history, crushed to death in an overcrowded pen in the Leppings Lane end of the stadium. If losing friends, relatives, fellow supporters was not bad enough, they also had to contend with a campaign of propaganda by both the police and the media which attempted to cover up police mistakes on the day and pin the blame for the tragedy on the Liverpool fans.
Friends and relatives of the victims, as well as Liverpool fans and other football fans, had to embark on a long campaign for justice. They lobbied government for new inquiries and desperately sought new evidence which would prove that the disaster was the fault of the police and not the supporters. Not until 2016 did they finally get the justice they were looking for when a verdict was returned that the 96 were killed unlawfully. It took 27 years.
Hillsborough is a documentary by Daniel Gordon which chronicles the disaster, the investigations, and the effect that it had on the lives of countless numbers of people. It includes interviews with survivors, the relatives of deceased victims, police officers, and investigators. The documentary is a co-production between ESPN and the BBC and was initially broadcast as a two hour long version by ESPN on 15th April 2014 in the United States to mark the 25th anniversary of the disaster. It could not be broadcast in the United Kingdom on that day in case it prejudiced a 2012 High Court inquest which was still in progress.
After the publication of the inquest verdict the BBC broadcast this much longer 2016 version of the documentary on the 8th May 2016, it includes extensive additional footage relating to the inquest and the reaction to the final verdict, the complete film is 3 hours 20 minutes long. There have been numerous documentaries produced about the Hillsborough disaster, this one is definitive. If you only watch one Hillsborough documentary in your life then make it this one.
If this is the definitive documentary on the Hillsborough disaster then perhaps the definitive book is Hillsborough: The Truth, authored by Professor Phil Scraton who was also the author of the groundbreaking 2012 report published by the Hillsborough Independent Panel following its new research into thousands of newly released documents. The book was updated in 2016 to include the new inquest verdicts.