Hillsborough 2.0 – Is History Repeating Itself?
18th November 2022
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?