Report summary

The remit of the Hillsborough Independent Panel

The remit of the Hillsborough Independent Panel as set out in its terms of reference was to:

  • oversee full public disclosure of relevant government and local information within the limited constraints set out in the Panel's disclosure protocol
  • consult with the Hillsborough families to ensure that the views of those most affected by the tragedy are taken into account 
  • manage the process of public disclosure, ensuring that it takes place initially to the Hillsborough families and other involved parties, in an agreed manner and within a reasonable timescale, before information is made more widely available
  • in line with established practice, work with the Keeper of Public Records in preparing options for establishing an archive of Hillsborough documentation, including a catalogue of all central Governmental and local public agency information and a commentary on any information withheld for the benefit of the families or on legal or other grounds
  • produce a report explaining the work of the Panel. The Panel's report will also illustrate how the information disclosed adds to public understanding of the tragedy and its aftermath.

The structure of the Panel's Report

The Hillsborough Independent Panel's Report is in three parts.

The first part provides an overview of 'what was known', what was already in the public domain, at the time of the Hillsborough Panel's inaugural meeting in February 2010.

The second part is a detailed account, in 12 substantial chapters, of what the disclosed documents and other material 'adds to public understanding' of the context, circumstances and aftermath of the disaster.

The third part provides the Panel's review of options for establishing and maintaining an archive of the documents made available by over 80 contributing organisations in hard copy, many of which have been digitised and are now available online.

Finally, the Report includes a set of appendices: the Panel's full terms of reference; how the Panel has consulted with bereaved families and their representatives and how it responded to well-publicised events during its work; the process of disclosure; and the research methodology adopted in analysing the documents.

The Report summary: scope and content

In accessing and researching the mass of documents and other material disclosed by organisations and individuals, the Panel was guided in its work by its regular consultation with, and the priorities of, Hillsborough families and their representatives.

Part 2 of the Report comprises 12 chapters that respond to the bereaved families' priorities in establishing the scope of the Panel's research into the documents. They also demonstrate the depth of the research conducted and the profound issues raised by this unique process of disclosure.

In analysing the disclosed documents it has been necessary within the 12 chapters to include contextual material already in the public domain. What follows summarises each of the 12 chapters, providing an overview of how the documents disclosed to the Panel add to public understanding.

Brief background

Hillsborough Stadium, home of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club (SWFC), was opened in 1899. Like many such city stadia it was located in a built-up residential area no longer suited to modern transport or the access necessary for 54,000 spectators on big match days.

The stadium underwent significant structural modification in preparation for staging the 1966 World Cup. Both ends of the stadium, the Spion Kop and the Leppings Lane terrace (beneath the West Stand), were standing terraces.

Hillsborough was hired regularly by the Football Association (FA) to host FA Cup semi-finals, the most prestigious knock-out tournament in English soccer. These matches usually drew capacity crowds. Both teams' supporters, travelling to Sheffield, were unfamiliar with the city, with access to Hillsborough and with the layout of the stadium.

In 1981 before the FA Cup Semi-Final between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers there was serious congestion at the Leppings Lane turnstiles and crushing on the confined outer concourse. This led directly to severe compression on the Leppings Lane terrace and injuries to fans. Hillsborough was not used again for an FA Cup semi-final until 1987, and then again in 1988.