Background to the Disaster
Liverpool had reached the semi-final of the FA Cup and were to play Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough Stadium, home to Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. It was an identical scenario to the previous year when Liverpool had beaten Notts Forest at the same ground.
Tickets are always in short demand for such a game but in this instance Liverpool fans had even scarcer resources to draw from. They had been located the Leppings Lane end of the ground - the smaller end. Given the level of support this was a woefully inadequate allocation of tickets. Although there was general disquiet about this decision by the FA's, fans nevertheless resigned themselves to the fact. After all they had been through it all the year before and therefore many justifiably felt that they knew what to expect.
Fans set off early and full of optimism on that sunny Saturday morning. Whether they had travelled by road or rail, having left their transport at designated sites they were escorted by police towards the ground. One bereaved father described the areas around the ground as having a 'carnival atmosphere'. Sadly, this atmosphere would soon change.
The build up of fans around the Leppings Lane area increased dramatically around 2p.m. as people began to arrive in greater numbers. It also became known that many coaches were only just arriving having experienced delays from road works and police searches along the way. Clearly a crowd safety issue was emerging. Yet police records indicate little real concern at this stage.
From 2.30p.m. the number of people at the turnstile area was immense and orderly queuing was an impossibility. Fans being searched as they went in to the ground exacerbated this growing problem. Fans were entering a bottleneck. 10,000 fans, three gates, and seven turnstiles - this was the disastrous situation that people with tickets for the Leppings Lane end were walking into. Add to this the number of people with tickets for the West Stand (located above the terracing) who also had to enter by the same three gates and the recipe for disaster increases even further.