Chapter 3: Custom, practice, roles, responsibilities

Filtering, managing approach and congestion at the turnstiles

2.3.27 In the late 1980s segregation of rival fans was planned by the police from the moment they arrived in the city. Arriving on trains and in coaches fans were met at stations or drop-off points and escorted by the police to the stadium, a strategy known as 'corralling'.

2.3.28 Many other fans, travelling in cars, made their own way to the stadium. The match ticket carried a request for fans to be inside the stadium 15 minutes before kick-off. For FA Cup semi-final matches fans were in unfamiliar surroundings and relied on the police for direction to the appropriate turnstiles.

2.3.29 The immediate approach to the west end of the stadium was on a bend in Leppings Lane. On arrival at the stadium Liverpool fans entering the West Stand, the Leppings Lane terrace and the North Stand passed through gates in an outer fence before entering a divided concourse leading to the turnstiles.

2.3.30 The outer concourse was a tightly confined area between a wall and a fence above the River Don. As stated in Part 1, managing the crowd approaching, and within, the outer concourse was crucial in avoiding crushing at the turnstiles.

2.3.31 In a submission to the Taylor Inquiry a journalist, David Walker, described the 1987 policing arrangements.[10] They included 'snake queues' from the Leppings Lane turnstiles, 'two or three abreast ... so there was no surge on particular turnstile entrances'. The queues were 'probably 30 or 40 yards' long. Further back, on the street approach were 'Police checkpoint barriers to check that you had a ticket before you actually got around the perimeter of the ground'.

2.3.32 Police Constable Alan Ramsden, on duty in 1987, noted a 'sort of semi-sterile area' where crowds were kept 'outside the metal railings and gates to allow myself and other officers to carry out searches'.[11] Inspector Clive Calvert described how the police restricted ticketless fans' access to the turnstile area and statements made available to the Panel provide a range of accounts regarding ticket checking and crowd filtering in 1987.[12]

2.3.33 Analysis of CCTV evidence by SYP from the 1988 Semi-Final to 'ascertain if stewards were involved in any control of the crowd in Leppings Lane' concluded that they 'appear to have some physical control of the outer perimeter gates leading to the service road'.[13] This was a reference to the narrow service road running between the outer concourse area and the river across the face of exit Gate C.

2.3.34 The stewarded section of the outer perimeter fences was restricted to 'selected persons or vehicles'. It was 'isolated from the A-G concourse area, by use of portable barriers'. The A-G concourse area housed the turnstiles for the Leppings Lane terrace. However, there was 'no evidence of a filtering of fans outside the outer perimeter gates' (on Leppings Lane).

Figure 4: Layout of the turnstiles at Lepping Lane, April 1989. Original available at SCC000002050001, p56
Figure 4: Layout of the turnstiles at Lepping Lane, April 1989. Original available at SCC000002050001, p56

2.3.35 In his Interim Report LJ Taylor referred to 'a very large and consistent body of evidence that, on the day [1988], the police in Leppings Lane conducted an efficient filtering exercise designed to keep away those without tickets and control the flow of fans towards the ground'.[14] Mr Mackrell affirmed that he had been informed by C/Supt Mole that in 1988 on approaching the stadium fans' tickets were checked by SYP officers.[15] 

2.3.36 C/Supt Mole, however, denied there was an SYP policy of filtering fans using barriers although this was contested by other officers.[16] He stated they were used only at junctions along Leppings Lane to protect residents' access to their homes.

2.3.37 C/Supt Mole claimed that police officers 'were briefed to be aware of the possibility of non ticket holders attending the game and that checks should be made to identify them and turn them away' but 'there were no specific plans to place cordons on Leppings Lane in the form of barriers and I did not give any instructions to that effect'. He denied 'knowledge of any such cordons being introduced' and 'it was not my policy to filter supporters by utilising barriers across the footpath'.

2.3.38 In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, SYP suggested that the turnstiles could not cope because 'Liverpool supporters were getting to the turnstiles and instead of offering tickets were offering money. At this stage the crush was such that they could not turn away from these turnstiles' [17] Further, it was suggested that ticketless fans were not prevented from approaching the turnstiles.

2.3.39 According to the Treasury Counsel's submission to the Taylor Inquiry, the 'police told the inquiry that there was little they could do, since no offence was committed in being near a ground without a ticket, provided there was no obstruction or breach of the peace'.

2.3.40 This was contested: 'We do not think the police are so powerless. Ticketless fans do cause a problem and, in sufficient numbers, are almost bound to cause an obstruction. It is in our opinion perfectly reasonable for a police officer to ask a fan if he has a ticket and, if he has not, it is lawful to refuse him access to the immediate vicinity of the ground'.[18]

2.3.41 The significance of managing the crowd in the vicinity of Leppings Lane was also considered. In 1989 there was an attempt by stewards to control the crowd outside the turnstiles using portable barriers. Photographs suggested 'that portable barriers were positioned between turnstiles 10 and 11, extending back towards the perimeter gates' to channel fans to particular turnstiles.[19]

[10] Transcript of David John Walker's evidence to the Taylor Inquiry, HOM000026140001, p62. See also statement of David Walker, SYP000038760001, p292.
[11] Officer's Report and witness statement of PC Alan Ramsden, SYP000039140001, pp6-7.
[12] Statement of Inspector Calvert, SYP000038700001, p456.
[13] South Yorkshire Police 'Summary of 1988 Semi-Final', SYP000098380001, pp2-4.
[14] Rt Hon Lord Justice Taylor, The Hillsborough Stadium Disaster, 15 April 1989, Interim Report, Cm 765, August 1989, London: HMSO.
[15] WMP interview with Graham Mackrell, 22 June 1990, SYP000038890001, p149.
[16] Statement of C/Supt Mole, 20 June 1989, SYP000123550001, p113.
[17] SYP briefing notes, 17 April 1989, SYP000010190001, p8.
[18] Final Submission to the Taylor Inquiry on behalf of Treasury Counsel, SYP000098180001, p23.
[19] Note from C/Supt Wain to Mr Metcalf, 23 May 1989, SYP000097530001, p4.