I realise that there will be plenty of people who won’t accept the conclusions of the Hillsborough Inquest jury but it was a pity to see someone who glories in the title of “Reverend” tweeting that whilst they apparently accepted the verdict, nonetheless those who went to the game without a ticket bore some responsibility for what happened. It seems she gained her wisdom on this topic from “talking to football fans on a train.” This allegation is of course one part of the very unholy trinity of claims so beloved of many South Yorkshire Police officers that half of the Liverpool fans were drunk, many of them didn’t have tickets and anyway they all turned up late, so it was all their fault. Each of these allegations was systematically taken apart and debunked at the Inquests. But in order to assist the Reverend and others in a similar state of ignorance I thought it might be more accurate to consider the evidence than football fan gossip.
The fact that an exit gate was opened at 14.52 and remained open for about five minutes always meant that the exact number of people inside the Leppings Lane on the afternoon of the disaster could never be ascertained. The Coroner instructed an expert in stadium design and safety John Cutlack, and one of the tasks he undertook was to try to calculate the figures as precisely as possible.
Putting the matter as simply as possible his conclusion was, as he told Pete Weatherby QC for 22 families, that no more people entered the ground by 3.08pm when the turnstiles closed than the safety certificate permitted. The transcripts of the entire Inquests can be found on the Inquest website at http://www.hillsboroughinquests.independent.gov.uk and this particular part of the evidence can be found on day 39, 27th June 2014 AM between pages 84 and 94.
The documents used by the witness to reach his conclusions can also be read on the website. Search under the name of “Cutlack” then go to the toolbar on the left hand side and select “Evidence”and scroll down to 27th June AM. You will see a document with the alphanumeric code INQ 000191330025. This is a table showing the number who entered through turnstiles A to G between 12.55 and 15.08 that afternoon as calculated variously by the Club, the Health & Safety Executive back in 1989 and by the witness. See also INQ000264460002 which shows the compendious figures for all those who entered either the west stand, the west terrace and the north-west terrace from the Leppings Lane end. These fans will have used turnstiles A to G plus turnstiles 11 to 16. All told Mr Cutlack calculated that a total of 14,264 persons entered as against a figure on the safety certificate of 14,565. This was the number of tickets sold for this part of the ground. In other words, the Leppings Lane end was not over-crowded as a whole.
Accepting as we did at the Inquests that at a match of this nature there would be bound to be some people who did enter the ground without tickets the point that the evidence proves is that if there were such people inside the Leppings Lane the total number of fans in that area still did not exceed the permitted capacity. If therefore there were fans inside who had not got tickets then equally some people who did have tickets had apparently not arrived by that time.
One final piece of evidence may be instructive since it suggests that not all those who did not have tickets for the match nonetheless got into the ground in spite of the fact that as I have said gate C was open for some five minutes after 14.52. Shortly after 3pm Sgt Higgins looked outside the ground and saw a crowd of between 200 to 300 people milling around outside the Leppings Lane gates. Like all the witnesses on this topic he relied on an assumption that they were ticketless fans but it is hard to think why else they would still have been outside at that time if they had in fact got tickets. For whatever reason therefore it seems clear that at least that number of people without tickets made no attempt to gain entry. Day 146, 12th February 2015, page 56
It is therefore clear on the evidence that the jury heard that any ticketless fans inside the Leppings lane end did not mean the total number of fans in that end was too high. It was not. This was not the cause of the disaster. What caused the disaster is that too many fans were allowed into the central pens 3 and 4 whilst too few fans were directed into the wing pens. If you look at the footage from the cameras after the match has been halted at 3.06pm the numbers in those side pens was so low that you could still see the concrete steps on the terraces. This occurred because the police failed to close the tunnel that gave access to the central pens and failed to direct fans around to the side pens. Ticketless fans did not contribute much less cause this disaster and contrary to Rev Tissington’s rather un-Christian view the evidence shows they do not bear any responsibility for the disaster.