Hillsborough: Forged Tickets? Only If You Think Star Wars Is A Documentary
March 2, 2014
by Martin Odoni
Another Old Wives’ Tale about the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster continues to rear its ugly mush intermittently, sometimes through cynical smear tactics, sometimes through innocent misinformation. This Tale is just a variation on the old ‘Ticketless fans caused the Disaster’ crock, and it is inaccurate for exactly the same reasons, and others besides. The myth is that the crush that took ninety-six lives had formed in the Leppings Lane end of the Hillsborough Stadium because large numbers of Liverpool supporters had been able to get in without paying, by use of forged match-tickets.
Now, as has been pointed out more than once on this blog and on many other websites concerned with the Disaster, the myth of too many spectators being in the ground is a non-starter, because the Leppings Lane terrace was not over its official capacity. Analysis of all available admissions evidence by the Health & Safety Executive pointed to the likeliest approximate number of spectators in the terrace being several hundred below its capacity. The real reason for overcrowding was uneven distribution of the attendance into enclosures that were fenced off from each other.
But looking narrowly at the question of whether there were any spectators getting forged tickets, the answer is a resounding ‘no’ anyway, whatever the actual attendance might have been on the day. No evidence was ever found to suggest that even one supporter, of either Liverpool or Nottingham Forest, had gained entry using a forged ticket. More than that in fact, no evidence has ever been found to suggest that tickets had been forged for that FA Cup semi-final at all.
This total void of evidence is in spite of the very deliberate, very conscious, and very concerted efforts on the part of the police to prove that there had been forgeries in circulation on the day of the Disaster. The West Midlands Police, during their ‘strictly-going-through-the-motions-and-nothing-more’ investigation into the conduct of the South Yorkshire Police at Hillsborough, actually went as far as to seize a large number of the used semi-final tickets from Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, and then submitted a hundred of them that they felt looked ‘most suspicious’ to the Forensic Science Service Laboratory in Birmingham. Requesting a full analysis, the West Midlands Police gave an instruction in somewhat loaded terms; they did not ask whether there were any forgeries among them, but instead asked the lab, “to establish how many of the sample of one hundred are forgeries” (bold emphasis mine), thus indicating that the police were just taking it as read a priori that forgeries were in the mix.
The ‘Senior Scientific Officer’ at the lab performed the analysis as requested, and his findings fell into two categories.
Firstly, a legitimate ticket issued by Sheffield Wednesday always had an owl emblem comparable to the image on the club badge imprinted near the right edge.
This emblem would only become visible when the ticket was exposed to ultra-violet (UV) light. When the tickets from the semi-final were exposed to UV light, the emblem showed up on ninety-eight of them – the only two tickets that it did not appear on were damaged tickets from which the right edges were missing altogether, so there was no way to check. It was possible for a forger to synthesise such a watermark, but only by using the top tools and skills of the day. Therefore, only a professional counterfeiter could have done it, and as a rule, professional counterfeiters only ever mass-produce such tickets, in order to maximise profits – if such foul play were involved at Hillsborough, we can be confident that the stadium’s capacity would have been exceeded by hundreds.
Secondly, the text on legitimate tickets was always in a particular purple-tinted print. Close analysis of all the questioned tickets found that the print conformed nicely to the colour, font and quality of an officially-issued ticket.
In short, and in the Scientific Officer’s own words, there was “no evidence to suggest that any of the questioned tickets… are counterfeits.”
And those were all the likeliest candidates for forgeries. The whole ‘issue’ of fake tickets was yet another speculative, unsubstantiated product of police imagination; guesswork, no more, almost certainly fuelled by the ongoing desire to shift blame for the Disaster onto the Liverpool supporters. To claim, as many supporters of other football clubs still do even now, that these imaginings are a serious possibility, even after such a premeditated investigation turned up nothing, is akin to assuming that Star Wars must be real simply because George Lucas imagined it.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; critical thinking is something that really needs to be taught in schools. It would help a lot of people to look a lot less stupid in adulthood.
More on the Hillsborough Disaster; –