By Victor Martins, FootballPredictions.NET, 16:01 28/09/2020
Following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, where 96 Liverpool supporters tragically lost their lives, widespread media coverage at the time wrongly portrayed Reds fans as the main perpetrators of the tragedy.
As a result, many Merseyside newsagents banned newspapers like The Sun, with Liverpool Football Club leading the charge against the tabloid. Many on Merseyside believed that the wrongful perception painted tarnished everyone from the area regardless of football allegiances.
As a result of this, Everton fans do not buy The Sun. There have been mass protests against The Sun in Liverpool, with both football clubs either side of Stanley Park united against the publication. Banning orders at training grounds and press conferences have been seen with an attempt at a complete boycott in the city.
The Sun’s print readership has declined significantly since the digital age has seen most media outlets move online. The Hillsborough disaster, although the most significant coverage by the tabloid, is not the only example of a wrongful portrayal of the city of Liverpool.
Hillsborough Disaster and “The Truth”
As previously mentioned, the Hillsborough disaster occurred during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Shortly before kick-off, as fans entered the stadium, the police match coordinator ordered exit gate C of the Leppings Lane Stand to be opened which prompted serious overcrowding and the resulting crush of supporters.
With 96 fatalities and over 750 injuries, it remains in 2020 the worst sporting disaster in British history.
The initial coroner’s inquest in 1991, ruled that the deaths of the supporters were totally accidental. However, the families of those affecting rejected this finding and fought to have the case reopened.
Private prosecutions brought by the Hillsborough Families Support Group eventually failed in 2000. In 2009, a Hillsborough Independent Panel was formed to examine the evidence in the initial report.
Reporting in 2012, the panel agreed with the criticism in the Taylor report of 1990 and revealed the details of the police effort to shift the blame onto supporters. The result of their findings saw the result of accidental death quashed and began two police-led investigations.
The second coroner’s inquest was held in 2016 and they ruled that supporters were unlawfully killed by gross negligence by the police and ambulance service. The report also removed any allegations of wrongdoing from Liverpool fans due to the dangerous conditions present at Hillsborough Stadium.
The Sun’s Coverage of Hillsborough
Four days after the disaster, the editor of The Sun - Kelvin MacKenzie - ordered a Sun front page titled ‘The Truth’ to be printed. Beneath the title, three subheadings read: “Some fans picked pockets of victims”, “Fans urinated on brave cops”, “Fans beat up PC giving kiss of life” - all of which were untrue.
MacKenzie has since retracted his apology to those affected by Hillsborough and The Sun’s front page. Since the newspaper’s coverage, there has been a widespread boycott of the publication on Merseyside, with limited access to reporters from The Sun at press conferences.
Kelvin MacKenzie’s Column in 2017
In 2017, Everton Football Club banned The Sun newspaper from all of its premises following a column written by MacKenzie regarding midfielder Ross Barkley.
The ban prevented any reporters from The Sun reporting from games held at Goodison Park or attending press conferences at Finch Farm, Everton’s training ground.
At the time MacKenzie was no longer the editor of The Sun but still remembered strongly by those on Merseyside for ‘The Truth’ front page. Within his column, he compared then-Everton midfielder Ross Barkley to a gorilla, while also slurring the city of Liverpool.
He said that those who live in Liverpool could only earn the same as the England international if they were ‘drug dealers’.
With The Sun’s continual misjudged and wrong articles and themes regarding Liverpool as a city, both Reds and Evertonians alike have boycotted the publication and refuse to buy it.