Hillsborough 2.0 – Is History Repeating Itself?

As the popularity of events grow, so does the responsibility to keep those who attend safe. Crowd control remains a prevalent issue within the events industry, heightened by the reoccurring reports of crowd safety negligence. Can event organisers do more to protect attendees or is this becoming a norm for industry practice? Is it event managers alone who are to blame for these tragedies? 

Hillsborough Disaster  

What was meant to be the FA Cup Semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest is now more commonly known as the Hillsborough disaster (1989). A crowd crush incident which claimed the lives of 97 football fans and hospitalized 162 others, deemed to be one of the worst disasters in british sporting history by the BBC. Inadequate signage of the two end standing terraces and police decisions to open exit gates to allow quicker access for fans resulted in a surge of fans funnelling into the two central enclosed terraces. It is now a compulsory requirement for teams in the Premiership and Championship leagues to have all-seated grounds after enclosed standing spectator terraces were also identified as a contributing factor of the 1989 disaster.  

Image by Cowardlion via Shutterstock

Same issues, different decade

2022 UEFA Champions League Final  

Crowd control chaos presented prior to kick off at the UEFA Champions League Final match between Liverpool and Real Madrid (Saturday 28th May 2022). A reported 15,000 Liverpool fans were trapped in a bottleneck whilst trying to enter the Stade de France, decisions to remove signage led to supporters entering the stadium via a singular route where turnstiles were malfunctioning. The calm response from the crowd is said to be the main reason why there were no fatalities. In a report following the incident, UEFA were accused of insufficient preparation (inadequate crowd safety measures) prior to the match. French police were also criticised for using tear gas unprovoked.  

Kanjuruhan Stadium Disaster Indonesia 

A fatal crush took place just last month when 131 people were killed in a crush following a football match in the Kunjuruhan stadium, Indonesia. The stadium was filled beyond capacity with 42,000 tickets sold for a capacity of 38,000 with only 4 paramedics on standby. After the match, fans stormed the pitch prompting the police to use tear gas to control the crowd, the use of which has been banned by FIFA. Fans have a pre-existing negative reputation and at this game alone, police vehicles were being set alight and brought into the stadium. Furthermore, in the days leading up to the game, scathing articles were written about the opposing teams riling up the fans, despite this behaviour, the fans are still calling for the police to be held responsible.

Image by Muhammed Solikin via Shutterstock

But it’s not just football… 

Travis Scott’s Astroworld  

In November of 2021, Travis Scott’s Astroworld music festival was held for the first-time post covid, with an estimated 50,000 people in attendance. It was reported that multiple fans jumped fences, and stormed through security before the event began, with Scott encouraging fans to do so through his social media accounts. During his set, the crowd tried to grab the attention of staff as things became increasingly uncomfortable, but to no avail as the surge continued on and took the lives of 10 people. Making it one of the US’s deadliest concerts in history. Reports show that the operational plan put into place didn’t actually detail a protocol for a crowd surge, only other threats like a shooter or bombs.  

Image by Bryan Regan via Shutterstock

Spot the similarities 

  • Unjustified police actions
  • Inadequate event planning
  • Crowd behaviours

The Blame Game

Millions of events have been successfully run since the Hillsborough disaster so can event managers be solely to blame for these tragic yet few occurrences?

Certain crowds have indeed learnt from their mistakes, in the case of the UEFA champions league final, the crowd remaining calm meant that no one lost their lives. In other cases, the crowd’s unruly behaviours made it extremely difficult for event managers to keep everyone safe. When other bodies such as the police become involved and go against protocol, it could be argued that this job is made even harder.  

However, event managers are still making mistakes that have played a major role in these disasters, overselling tickets, not having adequate emergency services onsite and not having the correct action plans in place are fixes that if they were considered pre the event, could’ve drastically changed the outcome. This leads us to question, is there more event managers can be doing? 

What can be done?

Moving forward alternative ways of manging crowds need to be explored, and methods already in place need to be evaluated and reinforced to ensure the safety of those attending events is a priority. 

  • Guides in place need to be consistently referred to – such as the UK’s the Purple Guide, the Green Guide and the Health and Safety Executive or in the US’s case, the Event Safety Guide 
  • Reducing the amount of, or banning standing tickets at music events – this will make it easier to control the audience members safety and reduce the risk of surges occurring 
  • Staggered entry and exit times for audience members could reduce crowding within the venues 
  • More laws and legislation surrounding crowd safety at events is needed

What actions would you take to reduce the risks?


Holly Foster says:

Really interesting topic, and I believe that this contemporary issue needs to be a top priority for event managers. I agree that the current methods of Crowd management needs to be revisited and as a constant as different types of events are always being created and changing.. One aspect I also think could be developed further, as you have mentioned as a similarity, is the importance of Logistics and event planning as a whole within events. If you take a further look at the Hillsborough disaster some may say that the logistical planning in the lead up to the event was a causation. An example of this was that the organisers had arranged for the Liverpool fans (That have a larger fan base) to have the smaller end of the stands and the Nottingham Forest fans to have the larger end of the stands.
It just goes to show how critical event planning is to the success of an event but also how after so many disasters is this still happening now.

s1901321 says:

Hi Holly, thank you for reading our blog and for your comment. We’re glad you agree that there is room for improvement on the current methods of crowd management and control. It is clear that there are similarities in these examples of crowd control disasters which managers should be taking steps to avoid reoccurring in the future. Maybe it should be standard industry practice to analyse events that have successfully managed and controlled their crowds when we look at how we avoid these disasters reoccurring.

Lily says:

This is a really informative blog which was really interesting to read. I would definitely have more security and an increased presence of paramedics on standby and make sure to not over sell tickets in the future!

s1901321 says:

Hi Lily, we really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on our blog. We agree that having more security and paramedic presence could help reduce the risks of another disaster like this happening again! Introducing a legislation that requires events to have a certain ratio of stewards/security per certain number of attendees could also help in implementing crowd control measures more successfully. Do you think introducing more legislation around event crowd control like this could help to reduce future disasters?

Thomas Addey says:

We loved reading your blog! Having clear signage is definitely something that is necessary when an event is put on. How could we as the general public get these events and governments to create and listen to the laws and legislations suggested?

s1901321 says:

Hi Thomas, we’re glad you enjoyed reading our blog and thank you for your suggestions! We agree adequate signage for attendees is absolutely essential. As attendees we place a lot of trust in event organisers to keep us safe, but we would advise you to continuously be aware of your surroundings and to report any potentially dangerous behaviour or situations to event staff/management and to follow event entry and exit procedures as they are instructed.

Molly says:

I really enjoyed reading your blog! This is such a critical issue which needs to be considered more by event managers when organising an event, as it still keeps occurring. I think it is important to ensure there is well-implemented security at an event- making sure every aspect is thought about. Additionally, having enough staff, police and security at the event to manage crowds. Do you think there needs to be more of a focus in training staff on managing safely at events?

s1901321 says:

Hi Molly, we really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on our blog. We agree staff training is something that should be a priority when it comes to contingency planning for events. All internal and external security/staff and volunteers should be equipped with proper training to deal with crowd issues if/when they arise. Internal and external staff knowledge on procedures should be aligned so everyone can work together when an issue arises.

Megs says:

This is a really interesting read! This is such a critical issue which continues to reoccur throughout history, which I believe event managers need to be tapped into. I feel its important to have additional security is in place, whilst taking the steps to ensure every aspect is thought through. This emphasises how critical event planning is.

s1901321 says:

Hi Megs,

Thank you for reading the blog and for sharing your thoughts with us. We completely agree that this issue emphesises how important critical planning is and also that a key part of this is creating an action plan for when these disasters do occur hopefully minimise the effects. Additional security could also be a massive factor in keeping crowds calm and under control when they do become rowdy which we have seen in many of these case studies.

Rach says:

A really interesting read. Shocking that events such as this still occur when lessons should’ve been learnt from disasters like Hillsborough. It’s important these failings be brought to light to plan for no further disasters and develop the scope of event planning and in turn prevention of these occurrences.

s1901321 says:

Hi Rach,

Thank you for reading the blog and for sharing your thoughts with us. We completely agree that it is shocking we are still seeing these events happen in 2022 more than 30 years after the Hillsborough disaster and definitely highlights how important it is to remind people that these occurrences are still happening and that crowd safety needs to remain an absolute priority when these events are being planned

Brett says:

I really enjoyed reading this informative, interesting blog notifying several disasters that are even taking place in 2022 which is crazy! Crowd safety measures has to be the main priority when conducting large-scale music and footballing events.

s1901321 says:

Hi Brett,

Thank you for reading our blog and for sharing your thoughts with us. One of our main aims for this blog was to bring to light that these disasters are still happening in 2022, more than 30 years after the Hillsborough disaster. This really does show how prevalent crowd safety measures have to be in event planning, and how important having an action plan set in place for these occurrences are. However we do have to question is it the event manager that is purely responsible for everyones safety?

Jake says:

Really interesting read, a real eye opener for sure. Absolutely shocking things like this are still happening in 2022, over 30 years between them and still little progress.

s1901321 says:

Hi Jake,

Thank you for reading our blog and leaving your thoughts, we are glad this has brought to your attention that these events are still happening in 2022 and how crowd control and disasters remains a prevalent issue. Although millions of events have been successfully run since the Hillsborough disaster, we do have to question whether the fact that we are still hearing about these disasters in 2022 means that there has been any progress from both the event manager and the attendee perspectives. Considering managers are still making mistakes such as overselling tickets and not having satisfactory numbers of emergency services on site and crowds are still acting unruly in these situations makes us question this further.

Cam says:

I think the blog really does identify the on going issues when it comes to overcrowding and events like this. It shouldn’t even take more than 1 person to pass away before you can see it’s an issue. Simple solutions such as more security at events or more secluded zones with less people in at concerts for example are small steps that can save lives. For event organisers and mangers, the customers safety should always be the number 1 priority.

s1901321 says:

Hi Cam, thank you so much for reading our blog, and for sharing your thoughts with us. We definitely agree, even one death should be prompting more immediate action and the suggestions of solutions you offer are really good ideas. Simply having more security present will help identify possible disasters sooner, and hopefully prevent them from becoming fatal.

Tom says:

A very eye-opening analysis of the unfortunate events discussed. As much as it is a cliche, the words of Sir Winston Churchill remain true – “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”

Hopefully further awareness of such issues prevent a future disaster.

s1901321 says:

Hi Tom, thank you for taking the time to read our blog and share your thoughts with us. We completely agree, hopefully with further awareness being raised as you have said, we can keep the conversation going and learn from the many mistakes that have happened in the past, to avoid any further disasters occurring.

Catherine says:

Really informative read! Crowd safety must surely be a top priority for event planners. It is shocking that incidents such as these are still happening such a long time after Hillsborough. A well thought-out safety plan and adequately trained staff must surely be key for organisers to host successful, safe events. We must ensure that we do actually learn lessons from past failures.

s1901321 says:

Hi Catherine, thank you for reading our blog and sharing back your thoughts on the topic. We completely agree, disasters like these shouldn’t still be happening over 30 years after Hillsborough. Having a well-thought out plan with adequately trained staff is definitely a key way to avoid these disasters from occurring in the first place.

David says:

Amazingly informative blog with great points raised and many areas of concern and failure indicated.

Awareness of such failures will hopefully prevent such tragedies going forward.

s1901321 says:

Hi David, thank you taking your time to read our blog and share your opinions about it. With more awareness raised on this topic, we hope the lessons that need to be learned from these disasters will be taken on board and implemented.

Comments are closed.