Rodgers hails Reds family

'Pool boss says Hillsborough victims' relatives will never walk alone after shock report

Carl Markham

LIVERPOOL manager Brendan Rodgers believes repercussions from the Hillsborough disaster mean lessons will continue to be learned in the future.

The Taylor report produced in the wake of the deaths of 96 Reds fans heralded the introduction of all-seater stadia. And some 23 years later the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel highlighted a cover-up by South Yorkshire Police.

Rodgers welcomed this week's developments, which have seen bereaved families finally discover the truth about the events of April 15, 1989, but said nothing should ever be closed off.

"The (Taylor) report at the time created a big change within football," he said.

"If you look back to those games with fences and all that the game is now a much safer place to come.

"But in football, as in life, there are always developments and improvements and whether it is social or professional it is something we will always look to be involved in.

"In football there are always issues that will come up that we can always be better in and that is something we will strive for.

"Morally and socially you now look at decisions that are made against people.

"Certainly as one of the leading clubs in the world we know we have that responsibility."

Liverpool have always been fully supportive of the families who lost loved ones at Hillsborough and Rodgers stressed that relationship would continue.

"Like the rest of the country I was very happy for the families and the survivors and all those people who have supported the groups as well, but also shocked at some of the findings of the report," he added.

"The most important people in all of this are the families who have suffered for this period of time.

"I remember Kenny Dalglish (manager at the time of the disaster) and all the players at the funerals and to this day it is still the very same.

"We will play an integral part in the support and care for the families and the people.

"That never changes, they are a very important part of the family here at the club."

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill expects a strong performance from Liverpool in their first game since the publication of the independent report.

The Reds travel to the Stadium of Light tomorrow following an emotional week which has seen the truth revealed behind the incident in which 96 of their fans died.

O'Neill said: "There will be a really strong atmosphere at the game and there has been really strong empathy with Liverpool across the world. They will be very strong on Saturday.

"I am never sure whether it's a good or bad time to play them. You have to play them anyway and it's a game we are looking forward to. I still think we should be looking forward to it from our viewpoint.

"Of course, it will be rather emotional from Liverpool's viewpoint, but it will be a tough game anyway."

Meanwhile, Britain's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has insisted the Football Association still have questions to answer over the Hillsborough disaster despite their full apology.

Burnham questioned how the FA had allowed the FA Cup semi-final 23 years ago to be played in a ground without a valid safety certificate, and said negligence was to blame.

An initial FA statement yesterday morning did not contain an apology but, following calls from Hillsborough families, four hours later FA chairman David Bernstein made "a full and unreserved apology".

It came after the Independent Panel report showed the ground was unsafe and did not have a valid safety certificate at the time of the match.

It also revealed a police cover-up had taken place which had intended to shift blame for the disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans, to the victims themselves.

Burnham, an Everton fan who did much to have the inquiry into the disaster reopened when he was a member of the Labour Cabinet in 2009, said: "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?"

Hillsborough families welcomed the FA's apology to all those affected by the disaster -- but said it should have been made years ago.

Margaret Aspinall, of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, said: "We welcome the apology but the one thing that makes me angry is that we have had to wait for this report to come out before we get all the apologies that should have been made a long time ago."