Sunday 18 February 2018

'This is bad for football' - The Sun responds after Liverpool ban their reporters from Anfield and Melwood

Jack de Menezes

Liverpool Football Club has banned reporters at The Sun newspaper from attending matches at Anfield due to its coverage of the Hillsborough Disaster.

The Independent understands that press accreditations from any reporters covering matches from The Sun will not be approved, meaning that the newspaper’s football journalists will be denied entry to Anfield for any matches across all competitions.

It will also be refused any access to interviews with the players, as well as manager Jürgen Klopp, with the decision believed to have come after the club’s directors held talks with the families of those who died in the tragedy. The decision is believed to have been made on Thursday night.

The Sun ran a story on the Hillsborough Disaster on 19 April 1989, four days after 96 people were killed during a fan crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium ahead of an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, with the headline ‘The Truth’, in which it carried accusations from an anonymous South Yorkshire policeman that Liverpool supporters had "picked pockets of victims", "urinated on brave cops" and that some beat up a policeman giving the "kiss of life".

The story was published the day after Tony Bland, the 96th-victim of the disaster, had his life-support switched off after suffering irreversible brain damage, and caused considerable distress for those grieving the loss of relatives.

The accusations have since been proven false, while a jury found in April last year that the 96 victims were unlawfully killed following a 27-year legal battle for justice, led by the families of those who died.

Following the verdict, both The Sun and The Times, its sister title, left any mention of the Hillsborough verdict of unlawful killing off its first edition front page, a decision that was heavily criticised.

A renewed campaign to boycott The Sun increased momentum in recent months, with the Hillsborough Family Support Group giving its backing to The Total Eclipse of The S*n campaign, and it led to many retailers across Liverpool deciding against stocking the newspaper.

The false reports, the families’ claim, caused the pursuit of justice to be delayed, with the legal campaign lasting 27 years until the verdict of unlawful killing was given last year.

The Sun and Kelvin McKenzie, the editor at the time, have attempted to apologise years after the false coverage, but they have not been accepted by the relatives of the dead and the vast majority of Liverpool fans on the whole.

When contacted by The Independent, Liverpool Football Club declined to comment.

When contacted by The Independent, The Sun issued the following statement: "The Sun and Liverpool FC have had a solid working relationship for the 28 years since the Hillsborough tragedy. Banning journalists from a club is bad for fans and bad for football. The Sun can reassure readers this won’t affect our full football coverage.

"The Sun deeply regrets its reporting of the tragic events at Hillsborough and understands the damage caused by those reports is still felt by many in the city. A new generation of journalists on the paper congratulate the families on the hard fought victory they have achieved through the inquest. It is to their credit that the truth has emerged and, whilst we can't undo the damage done, we would like to further a dialogue with the city and to show that the paper has respect for the people of Liverpool."

Independent News Service

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