Liverpool FC ban Sun newspaper over Hillsborough coverage
Club will not allow journalists from paper at Anfield or Melwood training ground
Liverpool fans hold banners in protest against the Sun newspaper prior to the FA Cup semi-final against Everton at Wembley in April 2012. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Liverpool Football Club have banned the Sun from its Anfield stadium and Melwood training ground over the newspaper’s notorious coverage of the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool supporters were unlawfully killed.
The Sun will not be permitted to report on the club’s matches from Anfield and be given no access to interview players or the manager, Jürgen Klopp. The decision is understood to have been taken by Liverpool’s Boston-based owners, led by the financier John Henry, after club executives had discussions with families whose relatives were killed at Hillsborough at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.
Bereaved families, survivors and supporters have never forgiven the Sun for its coverage four days after the disaster, in which it ran extremely damaging allegations about Liverpool supporters’ behaviour under the headline ‘The Truth’, which are now established to have been false, told by unnamed South Yorkshire police officers. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has conducted a wide-ranging inquiry into which officers made the allegations, as part of its criminal investigation into possible perverting of the course of justice by South Yorkshire police officers.
Renewed campaigns to boycott the paper have grown on Merseyside since the jury at the new inquests into the deaths found last April that the 96 people were unlawfully killed, due to manslaughter by gross negligence of the South Yorkshire police officer in command of the match, Chief Supt David Duckenfield. The Total Eclipse of The S*n campaign was supported by the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG), and led to agreements by some retailers not to stock the paper, and to Liverpool city council supporting the wider boycott.
Liverpool were approached by the campaign, then discussed with families the possibility of withdrawing accreditation from the paper. The families are understood to have said that they did not believe the Sun should be given access to the club, which was supported by all the 96 people who died, given the damage its coverage did days after the disaster. The decision to ban the paper was taken on Thursday night.
On Wednesday April 19th, four days after the disaster, with 95 people confirmed dead – the 96th victim, Tony Bland, suffered irreversible brain damage and had his life support turned off in 1993 – the Sun, then edited by Kelvin McKenzie, ran its infamous front page. It reported as fact a series of allegations made by unnamed South Yorkshire police sources, principally that some Liverpool supporters had attacked and urinated on “brave cops” as they attempted to save people, and that some supporters had stolen from dead bodies.
The coverage caused tremendous distress to families in the first stages of shock and grief at the loss of their relatives, and among survivors of the deadly crush and Liverpool supporters, many of whom were filmed working hard to help save and rescue victims. Families believe that the huge, uncritical publicity given to those lurid stories greatly contributed to their difficulties in having the real truth established, leading to a traumatic justice campaign and legal battle for 27 years until last April’s inquests verdict.
The coverage led to an immediate boycott of The Sun on Merseyside, which has been strongly adhered to, and attempted apologies made by the paper, and latterly McKenzie, years after the stories were run, have never been accepted by the bereaved family groups.
Liverpool sources confirmed that the decision had been taken to ban the newspaper, but said the club will not be making an official comment. Over the years of bereaved families campaigning for justice, Liverpool has consulted with the HFSG on policy issues relating to Hillsborough.