Farewell Boleyn, Part 2: This Could Have Happened

 

On Tuesday 10 May 2016, the day of the last match at the Boleyn Ground, a disaster on the scale of Hillsborough nearly occurred in Green Street and the Barking Road. Press focus has been on the behaviour of a few people who threw missiles at the Manchester United team coach, rather than on the actions and omissions that led to this near-miss. To restore some balance, I’ve written below some conclusions that an inquest jury might have drawn had the worst happened.

Ever since watching the Hillsborough disaster unfold on TV, I have been desperately sad, both that a completely avoidable loss of life occurred, and because of the cover-up that started even as victims were still dying. This blog is dedicated to Hillsborough’s  victims, survivors and families.

This blog contains personal opinions only but is based on images and reports recorded at the scene of the near-miss.

  1. Basic facts of the disaster: Do you agree with the following statement: “xxx people died as a result of the disaster near the Boleyn Ground on 10 May 2016 due to crushing.”

 Jury’s answer: Yes.

  1. Police planning for the last ever matchday at the Boleyn Ground: Was there any error or omission in police planning or preparation that caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match?

 Jury’s answer: Yes.

 The police did not have a plan to manage safely the crowd that built up in the streets near the Boleyn Ground on its last ever match day. Nor did the police have a plan to keep these streets open for traffic. 

  1. Policing of the area near the Boleyn Ground: Was there any error or omission in policing on the day of the match that caused or contributed to a dangerous situation developing near the Boleyn Ground?

Jury’s answer: Yes.

The police response to the increasing crowd near the Boleyn Ground was slow and uncoordinated. Nearby road closures and recent parking restrictions exacerbated the situation. No filter cordons were in place on any of the streets near the Boleyn Ground. No contingency plans had been made for the gradual arrival of a large number of people, many of whom had no tickets but wished to enjoy the atmosphere of the day.

  1. Policing and the crush in the streets near the Boleyn Ground: Was there any error or omission by commanding officers that caused or contributed to the crush in the streets near the Boleyn Ground?

 Jury’s answer: Yes.

The police were unprepared for the need to get the Manchester United team coach and a number of taxis into the Boleyn Ground. The police response to this need was to charge the crowd with police horses and then to direct these vehicles, together with a number of police vans, through the crowd. 

The police were not aware that the Manchester United team coach needed to reverse into the ground. The police response on discovering that the coach was pointing the wrong way was to organise a three-point turn in the midst of the huge crowd in Green Street.

The above actions crushed people between vehicles, horses and other people, with no chance of escape, and led directly to the xxx deaths.

  1. Behaviour of the supporters: Was there any behaviour on the part of the football supporters that probably or may have contributed to the dangerous situation near the Boleyn Ground?

 Jury’s answer: Yes.

 A small number of people near the Boleyn pub, possibly provoked by the behaviour of the police, threw missiles at the Manchester United team coach. These actions are understood to have caused limited damage and minor or no injuries, but might have escalated into more widespread disorder.

  1. Defects in the Boleyn Ground: Were there any features of its design, construction and layout which were dangerous or defective and which probably or may have caused or contributed to the disaster?

 Jury’s answer: No.

  1. Licensing and oversight of the Boleyn Ground: Was there any error or omission in the safety certification and oversight of the Boleyn Ground that caused or contributed to the disaster?

Jury’s answer: No.

  1. Conduct of West Ham United Football Club before and on the day of the match: Was there any error or omission by WHUFC and its staff in preparation for the match on 10 May 2016, or on the day of the match, that caused or contributed to the dangerous situation which developed near the Boleyn Ground?

Jury’s answer: Yes.

The club did not agree adequate plans with the police or with Manchester United Football Club.

  1. Conduct of Manchester United Football Club before and on the day of the match: Was there any error or omission by MUFC in preparation for the match, or on the day of the match, which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation which developed near the Boleyn Ground?

 Jury’s answer: No.

The club did not arrive early enough at the Boleyn Ground. The area has always been congested, and the club should have made adequate plans to arrive at the Boleyn Ground in good time. Manchester United failed to arrive in time for another London game not long before the disaster, and from a professional point of view its failure to do so on 10 May 2016 was discourteous and possibly merited disciplinary action.

 The late arrival of the Manchester United team coach was the trigger for the police actions which caused the crushing of people near the Boleyn Ground. However, the police, and not the football club, are accountable for public safety.

 Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REu4IutW94k The Manchester United team coach moves through a very large crowd from 2.24.

http://www.dreamdeferred.org.uk/2016/05/west-ham-hooligans-or-police-liars/ Photos show: (i) a large happy crowd, (ii) police horses charging the crowd, (iii) vehicles moving through the crowd and (iv) the Manchester United team coach doing a three-point turn.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36264631 A small number of people throw missiles at the Manchester United team bus.

 

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