Chapter 2: The 'moment' of 1989

The Operational Order

2.2.30 The 1989 Operational Order replicated the 1988 Order. Given the format, wording, postings and spelling errors it was a redraft with few changes. The most significant difference was a 19 per cent reduction in manpower and the exchange of roles between Supt Marshall and Supt Greenwood (in 1988 Supt Marshall had been Ground Commander and Supt Greenwood had been responsible for the police operation outside the stadium in Leppings Lane).[17]

2.2.31 Supt Marshall policed a semi-final only in 1988 and previously earlier than 1981. Supt Greenwood had more recent experience. According to Supt Marshall there was no reason for the change in operational roles between 1988 and 1989 other than 'variety'.[18] 

2.2.32 The reduction in police personnel was concentrated in the Leppings Lane area of the stadium and had 'a direct affect [sic] on sector 2 who's [sic] responsibility was the Policing of the Liverpool supporters'.[19] The reduction was three inspectors, five sergeants and 58 constables.

2.2.33 Some operational changes reflected concerns about a minor post-match pitch invasion in 1988. Additional officers were allocated to the perimeter track at the end of the match and instructions were given to stop fans climbing the perimeter fence, ensuring the gates in the perimeter fence remained locked. The 1989 Order stated that 'these gates will only be opened if a specific message to evacuate is given on the public address system'.

2.2.34 Police officers were positioned on the track in front of each perimeter fence gate. The Operational Order instructed: 'No-one is to be allowed access to the track from the terraces without consent of a Senior Officer except to receive medical attention'.

2.2.35 In 1987 and 1988 the word 'No-one' was underlined. In 1989 the entire sentence was in capitals and underlined. Despite the wording, C/Supt Mole stated that during his time as match commander he had expected individual officers to use their own initiative in situations of distress.

2.2.36 However, C/Supt Mole considered that use of personal initiative could lead to a further problem, 'because there is a tendency, if you open gates - and we have found that with the Kop - that to let a couple of people out because of some reason; they may have lost daddies at the other pen; that a lot of people then think they want to come as well, so the message is to clear it with Control before you actually open the gate because you can create a problem in isolation that that Officer is not aware of'.[20]

2.2.37 The Operational Order also specified that perimeter fence gates could be opened only after a coded message had been announced via the public address system. Thus officers were not expected to work on their own initiative.

2.2.38 Further, neither the Operational Order nor the briefings alerted officers to the possibility of crushing. In the final submission to Lord Justice Taylor made by the Fire Service it was affirmed that 'Chief Superintendent Duckenfield had concluded, in the light of the discussions and information he had, that the pens on the Leppings Lane terraces did not present a major problem. The probability of crushing was not specifically mentioned in any briefings'.[21]  

2.2.39 While the 'Operational Orders emphasized the need to prevent spectators gaining access to the pitch ... the function of the perimeter fence gates in providing a means of escape in certain eventualities, particularly crushing, was not referred to'. Consequently, in the pre-match briefing at the stadium on the day, and in earlier briefings, SYP officers 'on the ground do not appear to have been made aware of the dangers of crushing in the pens particularly if they became overcrowded'.

2.2.40 Finally, the boundaries between Supt Greenwood's responsibilities as Ground Commander and Supt Marshall's responsibilities outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles - and the communication between both senior officers - remained unclear and did not form part of C/Supt Duckenfield's briefings.[22]

[17] Document giving comparison of Operational Orders at Hillsborough Football Ground, SYP000027020001, p3.
[18] West Midlands Police interview with Superintendent Roger Marshall for report to the DPP, 19 June 1990, SYP000038880001, p26.
[19] Document giving comparison of Operational Orders at Hillsborough Football Ground, SYP000027020001, pp9-10.
[20] Transcript of Chief Superintendent Mole's evidence to Lord Justice Taylor, day 7, 24 May 1989, SWF000002030001, pp68-69.
[21] Final submission of South Yorkshire Fire Service and Civil Defence Authority to Lord Justice Taylor, SYP000098170001, p17.
[22] West Midlands Police interview with ACC Jackson for report to the DPP, 28 June 1990, SYP000038910001, pp71-77.