Hillsborough: More On That Panorama Documentary

May 25, 2013

by Martin Odoni

I have come to realise that, the other day, when I wrote that Monday’s Panorama documentary about the Hillsborough Disaster – Hillsborough: How They Buried The Truth – all seemed a bit of a generic re-tread of old ground (see https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/hillsborough-meet-a-silly-old-dear/), I’d managed to miss something quite substantial in the newly-released footage from the BBC archives. The main reason for missing it is that the BBC didn’t really do anything to draw attention to it, but having studied one particular clip, and checked it against official records, I have noticed there may be a very serious issue that the documentary quietly raised.

You can watch the documentary at this URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2L_8sj6Wyc

Now, at roughly twelve minutes and thirty seconds into the programme, the following monologue from the Match Of The Day commentary track on the day of the Disaster is played; –

JOHN MOTSON: “Yeah, I’ve got an explanation for what’s happened here, Peter. I’m going to give you a line… … … And the story emerges that one of the outside gates leading into that terrace was broken. People without tickets got in… were therefore overcrowding the people with tickets, and that’s why the crush occurred.”

This snippet of commentary is a very familiar explanation, discredited within hours, for what caused the crush in the central pens. But the interesting thing about it is that, according to the graphic that appears on the screen, the time that Motson said it was 3:13pm.

The notorious established story has it that the lie about a broken gate began when it was spun by Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield of the South Yorkshire Police to Graham Kelly and Glen Kirton of the Football Association. This was supposed to have happened when they confronted him in the Police control box, even as the tragedy was playing itself out on the terraces below. This is even iterated in very damning terms in the Taylor Interim Report.

The problem is that all sources detailing that confrontation between Duckenfield and the FA officials, including the FA officials themselves, agree that he told them the lie at 3:15pm. Therefore, Motson’s commentary, unwittingly propagating the myth of ticketless fans taking advantage of a broken exit gate, was given voice some two minutes before Duckenfield so infamously peddled the same lie.

Now this would in no way at all exonerate Duckenfield, who was still knowingly spreading lies to shift blame for his mishandling of the crowd onto the victims, but it does raise a rather chilling question as to whether or not he really was the one who invented the ‘Broken-exit-gate’ red herring after all. It is now possible that somebody else invented the idea, and that he just went along with it.

Therefore, we now need to know who exactly passed this false information to Motson at such an early stage. Did somebody in the South Yorkshire Police other than Duckenfield spin this lie? If so, who was it? The Independent Police Complaints Commission needs to investigate and find out. It would constitute evidence that the blame-shifting was not just being improvised by an individual officer in a moment of panic, but was becoming actually orchestrated, even conspiratorial, at an even earlier stage than was previously demonstrated by the Report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

And above all, whoever did it needs to answer for it.

EDIT 26-5-2013: According to the Taylor Interim Report, Assistant Chief Constable Walter Jackson entered the control box to find out what was going on, around the time the players were taken off the field. He might have known something about this, and was high enough in authority to orchestrate a blame-shift story in a moment of panic.

The tale in the following link, although not directly relevant to this, does give suggestion that his behaviour on the day of the Hillsborough Disaster was erratic at best; –


I must stress that we have no way of verifying whether the anecdote is true. Interestingly, it has loud echoes of a frequently-told apocryphal story about Duckenfield himself supposedly hiding under a table as the Disaster unfolded, a story that is clearly untrue.


Other essays about the Hillsborough Disaster; –

Ticketlessness Was Not A Factor, And This Is How We Know

Discursive Types

In Its Correct Historical Context

Is Thatcher Guilty? And If So, What Of?

Digging The Dirt

Anne Williams – A Real World Heroine

The Toppling Gate

The Crush Barrier – A Smoking Gun?

The Name That Became A Moment

Oh, It’s The Drunken Fans Chestnut Again, Is It? Don’t Even Go There

Forged Tickets? Only If You Think Star Wars Is A Documentary

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