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Sep 13, 2012

Burnham demands answers from FA

MP Andy Burnham has called on the Football Association to explain why the 1989 FA Cup semi-final was held at Hillsborough despite the ground not having a valid safety certificate.

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Due to a breakdown in the relationship between Sheffield Wednesday and South Yorkshire Police, the ground was effectively unsuitable to host any football match, let alone the sell-out semi between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Twice before had supporters escaped unharmed when a similar crush almost occurred.

The FA was criticised in the Taylor Report in the aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster, but the level of evidence released this week and turned the spotlight back on English football's governing body.

Despite FA chairman David Bernstein offering "a full and unreserved apology'' for the FA's failures over the tragedy, Burnham told Sky News on Thursday: "The FA need to ask themselves some serious questions. The main one is why did they allow a semi-final to be played at a ground without a valid safety certificate?

"I don't think there's an answer that people can accept because I think it was because of negligence of people's safety. Why were supporters allowed to go into those unsafe conditions and did the FA know of those other near misses at other semi-finals such as 1981 Wolves v Spurs and 1987 involving Leeds?

"I remember going to Hillsborough the year before and having one of the most distressing experiences of my life. All of these things were known about Hillsborough, how did nobody in football act upon them?''

Bernstein commended the work of the panel in compiling the report and expressed sympathy for the families.

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

"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.

"For 23 years the families have suffered unbearable pain and we have profound sympathy for them. I would like to commend the professional work of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, while also recognising the tireless commitment shown by so many people in maintaining the fight for justice, particularly the family support groups.''