Jeremy Hunt, the Cabinet minister in charge of government policy on sport, must go to see relatives of Liverpool fans killed in the Hillsborough football stadium disaster to apologise for implying that their deaths were the result of hooliganism.
After England’s humiliation in the World Cup, the Culture Secretary had been discussing the good behaviour of supporters in South Africa. He said he was “incredibly encouraged by the example set by the England fans. I mean, not a single arrest for a football-related offence, and the terrible problems that we had in Heysel and Hillsborough in the 1980s seem now to be behind us.”
His comments were described by Margaret Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son at Hillsborough, as “a disgrace”. Mrs Aspinall, who chairs the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: “After all these years of fighting for justice I am very angry that he has shown such ignorance of the facts.”
Later, Mr Hunt issued a statement retracting the implication: “I know that fan unrest played no part in the terrible events of April 1989 and I apologise to Liverpool fans and the families of those killed and injured in the Hillsborough disaster if my comments caused any offence.”
Downing Street said that David Cameron had confidence in Mr Hunt, and that the minister would meet relatives of the Hillsborough victims. Four years ago, Boris Johnson apologised to the people of Liverpool for similar comments in The Spectator magazine, which he then edited.