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FA apologises over Hillsborough disaster

Football Association chairman David Bernstein has issued an apology for the Hillsborough disaster.

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The apology came soon after the Hillsborough Family Support Group called on English football's governing body to say sorry.

The FA gave the go-ahead for the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, at which 96 people died, to be staged at Sheffield Wednesday's ground despite the fact that it had no safety certificate and had been the scene of potentially dangerous crowd situations in previous years.

"We are deeply sorry this tragedy occurred at a stadium the FA selected. This fixture was played in the FA's own competition, and on behalf of the FA I offer a full and unreserved apology and express sincere condolences to all the families of those who lost their lives and to everyone connected with the city of Liverpool and Liverpool Football Club," Bernstein said.

"This should never have happened. Nobody should lose their lives when setting out to attend a football match, and it is a matter of extreme regret and sadness that it has taken so long for these findings to be published and the truth to be told."

Earlier on Thursday, the FA issued a statement in which it welcomed the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report on Britain's worst-ever sporting disaster, saying it "reiterates its deep and ongoing sadness at the dreadful events that unfolded on April 15, 1989".

But Support Group chairman Trevor Hicks said they should go further, following the example set by Sheffield Wednesday and issuing an apology. He told BBC Radio Five Live: "Yes they should - the ground didn't have a safety certificate.''

The FA commended the panel for its work in compiling the report, which revealed a devastating cover-up by police and emergency services and said the lives of some of the victims could and should have been saved.

The panel, chaired by the Right Reverend James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, assessed more than 400,000 pages of documents relating to the tragedy, which happened on the Leppings Lane terraces as the Reds played Nottingham Forest.

In a statement, the FA praised their "exhaustive and professional work" and said: "Having thoroughly reviewed yesterday's report in full, the Football Association would like to commend the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

"It is also important that the FA recognises the tireless commitment shown by so many, particularly the Hillsborough Family Support Group. We welcome the publication of the report.

"The FA reiterates its deep and ongoing sadness at the dreadful events that unfolded on 15 April 1989. The organisation's thoughts at this time remains with the families of all those who lost their lives in such terrible circumstances, as well as everyone connected with the city of Liverpool.

"For 23 years, the families have suffered unbearable pain, and we have profound sympathy for this."

The statement said the FA had "co-operated fully" with the panel throughout the compilation of the report, and had released documentation as requested.

After the report was released, Prime Minister David Cameron, in a statement to the House of Commons, apologised to the families of the victims for the injustice they had suffered and said the report showed that the police cover-up, aided and abetted by media coverage - most infamously in the Sun - had resulted in the "denigration of the deceased".

With the repercussions continuing, South Yorkshire Police is to reopen investigations into police conduct at the time and in the aftermath of the disaster. The force could refer itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Sir Norman Bettison, a South Yorkshire chief inspector in 1989, was at the match as a spectator and joined rescue attempts. He said the 1990 Taylor report "was right in saying that the disaster was caused, mainly, through a lack of police control".

But he added: "Fans' behaviour, to the extent that it was relevant at all, made the job of the police, in the crush outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles, harder than it needed to be. But it didn't cause the disaster."

He insisted he had "nothing to hide" after the report revealed that more than 160 police statements about Hillsborough had been changed, saying: "I never altered a statement nor asked for one to be altered."

On Wednesday, Cameron told MPs: "With the weight of the new evidence in this report, it is right for me today as Prime Minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have suffered over the past 23 years."

Cameron said the report was "black and white" in its findings that Liverpool supporters had been in no way to blame for what happened that day.

Relatives of those who died are to press for criminal actions to be launched. In 23 years, nobody has yet been held to account for the deaths at the Leppings Lane end, and Trevor Hicks, who lost two daughters in the disaster, said the families would take the necessary legal steps themselves if the state failed to act.

"We have two eminent lawyers - they will take the long-term look," Hicks told the BBC's Newsnight programme. "In David Cameron's statement, he said quite categorically that the state had let us down, so we will give the state the opportunity to put that right.

"But if it looks as though they're not going to do that, then we will do as we've done before and we'll take it out of their hands."

Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager on the day of the disaster, said the report's findings "mean the dignified search for justice has been given a platform to build on".

He praised Labour MPs Andy Burnham and Seve Rotheram, whose pressure helped bring about the release of many of the documents scrutinised by the panel, and also praised Cameron for his statement.

The FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he hoped the report's findings meant those affected by Hillsborough could find peace, writing on his Twitter account: "I sincerely hope the findings and the apologies bring some peace to the still-grieving families and the people of Liverpool."