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FA offers 'full and unreserved apology' over Hillsborough disaster


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

FA chairman David Bernstein offered "a full and unreserved apology" following the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report into the events at the FA Cup semi-final 23 years ago.

The report showed the ground was unsafe and did not have a valid safety certificate at the time of the match. Sheffield Wednesday apologised yesterday and Bernstein today followed suit.

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.

Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough family support group said the FA apology was long overdue.

She told the Press Association: "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.

"The FA did have a role in what happened so it's right we should hear from them."

Bernstein commended the work of the panel in compiling the report and expressed sympathy for the families.

He said in a statement: "We are deeply sorry this tragedy occurred at a venue the FA selected.

"This fixture was played in the FA's own competition, and on behalf of the Football Association I offer a full and unreserved apology and express sincere condolences to all of the families of those who lost their lives and to everyone connected to the City of Liverpool and Liverpool Football Club."

He added: "This should never have happened. Nobody should lose their lives when setting out to attend a football match and it is a matter of extreme regret and sadness that it has taken so long for these findings to be published and the truth to be told.

"For 23 years the families have suffered unbearable pain and we have profound sympathy for them.

"I would like to commend the professional work of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, while also recognising the tireless commitment shown by so many people in maintaining the fight for justice, particularly the family support groups."

Bernstein said the FA had co-operated fully with the panel and had released all the documents that had been requested.

"I would also like to make clear that we will of course fully cooperate with any further inquiry," said Bernstein

"The FA and English football has changed immeasurably, and learnt many lessons in the last 23 years. Through advancements in safety and investment in facilities English football is now a much safer, more welcoming environment for supporters."

Trevor Hicks, the chair of Hillsborough families support group, had earlier called on the FA to apologise over the disaster after their initial statement this morning contained no such apology.

Hicks told BBC Radio Five: "Yes they should - the ground didn't have a safety certificate."