Liverpool fans have reacted angrily after learning that a former shareholder who once tried to buy the club invited controversial Hillsborough police officer Sir Norman Bettison to football matches.
Steve Morgan, chairman of League One side Wolves and a lifelong Liverpool fan, has known Bettison for many years.
Wolves have confirmed in a statement on their official website that Morgan and Bettison attended the club’s league match at Bradford last Saturday together. They were pictured shaking hands at the game.
Bettison, 57, was an inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, at which 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death on an over-crowded section of terracing during an FA Cup semifinal against Nottingham Forest in Sheffield.
He attended the match as a spectator and later took part in an internal inquiry, but in 2012 was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) -- the UK’s police watchdog -- over allegations that he provided misleading information after the disaster. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Bettison subsequently served as chief constable of Merseyside Police from 1998 to 2005, and filled the same role with West Yorkshire Police from 2007, but resigned in October 2012, saying that the investigation into his role in the Hillsborough tragedy was “a distraction” to the force.
Morgan, the founder of British construction company Redrow, tried to buy Liverpool in 2004, and took over as owner of Wolves three years later.
A Wolves spokesman said: “Steve Morgan has known Norman Bettison for a number of years and he has attended Wolves games -- both at Molineux and away from home -- on many occasions before.”
Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, told the Liverpool Echo: “How can anyone ever invite him to a football club when the concerns about what happened after Hillsborough are so well-known? It beggars belief.”
Sheila Coleman, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, added: “Steve Morgan is entitled to invite whoever he likes to attend football matches with him, but it is said you can judge a man by the company he keeps.
“Liverpool fans will be able to make their own judgments on his decision to invite Norman Bettison.”
The role of the police both during and after the Hillsborough disaster has come under increasing scrutiny since an independent report into the tragedy was published in September 2012.
It cleared Liverpool fans of any blame, and highlighted the extent to which the police and emergency services had attempted to cover up their own culpability.
The report revealed that 164 statements made by South Yorkshire police officers had been altered -- 116 of them to remove or change negative comments about the policing of the match.
A month later, the IPCC announced that it would carry out a two-year investigation into both the role played by officers on the day and the subsequent cover-up.
In December 2012, a second investigation, named Operation Resolve and focusing on possible criminal behaviour by any people or bodies with responsibility for fan safety at Hillsborough, was launched and is being headed up by former Durham chief constable Jon Stoddart.