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FA Could Face Charges Over Hillsborough Disaster

With the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report going a long way towards spreading the truth of 1989's disaster earlier this year, Monday saw a debate in the House of Commons that began to move the discussion away from truth and towards justice.

Michael Regan

Following Monday's debate in Parliament on the findings in the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report, which included confirmation of the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate findings and determine if criminal charges should be laid against those in positions of authority whose actions contributed to the disaster, perhaps the biggest point of conversation has quickly become just who might end up in the firing line.

According to Conservative MP and Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, it's not only the South Yorkshire police, stadium owners Sheffield Wednesday FC, and former members of the office of the coroner who could find themselves on the wrong side of new investigations—the Football Association could end up facing criminal charges when everything's said and done, too. This is due to the fact that at the time of the match, Hillsborough stadium was operating without a valid safety certificate, yet despite knowing this the FA chose to continue with the match as scheduled.

Almost as surprising as suggestions in parliament on Monday that the FA could face criminal charges was that it was Hunt doing the suggesting given that in 2010 he was forced to apologise after implying that hooliganism played a role in the Hillsborough disaster. That he now finds himself amongst the governing party's most vocal proponents of justice for the tragic events of two decades past serves as illustration of the sea-change in how people—both politicians and their constituents—have begun to view the disaster following a momentous, hard-fought campaign that has seen the truth finally begin to win out in the public consciousness.

Andy Burnham, Labour MP for Leigh, was of the same mind: "The hirer of Hillsborough and its owner both had a duty of care, a basic responsibility to ensure a semi-final venue had an up-to-date safety certificate. It is why families rightly can't accept this was accidental and why football must be forced to face up to its responsibilities in the inquiries to come."

Meanwhile Steve Rotheram, the Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, went a step further in demanding a specific inquiry into the FA's role in the disaster, stating that English football's governing body "knew that Hillsborough didn't have a valid safety certificate, yet they were still adamant the game had to be played at that stadium."

"If they had not insisted that the game had to be played there," he continued, "the fans that died would still be alive. They must now face the full force of the law for their deadly decisions that they made at that time."

It may still be early days in this latest round of the fight for justice, but it's now clear that the momentum that saw the Hillsborough Independent Panel appointed in 2010 and earlier this year saw both their report and from it a more widespread acceptance of the truth of Hillsborough hasn't been lost.

Nobody who has spent the past two decades fighting for justice will be content with where things stand just yet, but as was the case with the fight for the truth that has played out over the past few years there now seems genuine reason to believe that justice may, in the end, be done. And alongside culpable members of the police and office of the coroner, one of those who may have to answer for their crimes are members of the FA or even the FA itself.

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