Efforts to support survivors of the Hillsborough disaster could be damaged if their concerns over regeneration proposals for the area around Liverpool’s Anfield home are ignored, campaigners have told council leaders.
The club, along with Liverpool council and social housing group Your Housing, are planning a 260 million-pound project to improve the Anfield district of the city, which will include expansion of the stadium.
But the Hillsborough Justice Campaign shop -- located on Walton Breck Road, behind the Kop end -- is earmarked for demolition as part of the regeneration.
The demolition is not directly linked to the planned stadium development, as Liverpool intend to expand only the Main Stand and Anfield Road End. The shop is set to be knocked down as part of the wider regeneration programme.
And so the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) has taken its concerns to the council, meeting with officials on Wednesday.
The shop -- in addition to selling merchandise to raise money for campaigning -- serves as both a headquarters for the group, and as a place near Anfield for fans to drop in on match days and talk through their experiences of the 1989 disaster.
And campaigners argue it is vital that the shop retains a base close to the stadium, so that they can continue to support survivors of the disaster ahead of the opening of fresh inquests at the end of March.
HJC member Steve Kelly, whose brother Mike died at Hillsborough, said: “The HJC shop is the only resource we have in the city for survivors to come.
“If it goes, there will be nowhere for people to go and with the forthcoming inquests it is going to be more important than ever they have somewhere.
“The survivors got us to where we are today and, in our opinion, they’ll carry us through, so we have always wanted to repay them for that.
“On a match day, I stay in the shop and people can come in to talk to me and tell me their experiences.
"I try and help as best I can and I always try to be there for everyone.
“There are lots of great plans for Anfield but this is just a real concern.”
A Liverpool council spokesperson told ESPN FC that the authority would take the views of campaigners into account: “As with all stakeholder groups, we are committed to working very closely with them to ensure we keep any disruption to their work to an absolute minimum.”
A total of 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death on an over-crowded section of terracing when attending an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium on Apr. 15, 1989.
After years of campaigning by fans, an independent report published in September 2012 exonerated supporters of any blame for the tragedy, and highlighted the extent to which the police and emergency services attempted to cover up their own culpability.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the UK’s police watchdog, began an investigation in October 2012 into both the role played by officers on the day and the subsequent cover-up.
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 set up in December 2012 and is being headed up by former Durham chief constable Jon Stoddart.
In the same month, original inquest verdicts of accidental death -- which campaigners believe prevented a proper investigation into the tragedy for years -- were quashed, with fresh hearings to begin in Warrington on Mar. 31.