Outside the Box: 'He ain't heavy' is rising high to help Hillsborough funds


Football's somewhat battered image has an opportunity for improvement over the festive season when the Hillsborough charity single "He ain't heavy, he's my brother" is released tomorrow with the aim of becoming the Christmas No 1. That coveted slot will be decided a week today, when the greatest threat will come from the X Factor winner James Arthur, a keen Middlesbrough supporter. All proceeds from "He ain't heavy" will go towards funding the legal costs of the families of the 96 Liverpool fans killed at Hillsborough in 1989 and an indication of how football is pulling together in support of it is that the idea originated from the blue half of Merseyside. After the Hillsborough Independent Panel report in September exonerated Liverpool fans and criticised South Yorkshire police and The Sun, Everton played the (Mancunian) Hollies' 1969 hit before their match against Newcastle in a show of Scouse solidarity. Peter Hooton, Liverpool fan and singer with The Farm, set about assembling a stellar cast to perform the new version with help from Labour MP Steve Rotherham, and those singing and playing include Sir Paul McCartney (from an Everton-supporting family), Liverpool fan Gerry Marsden, Glen Tilbrook (Squeeze and Charlton), Port Vale's Robbie Williams, Messrs Dalglish and Hansen, and two original Hollies. Today, 96 Liverpool supporters will be taking part in a fund-raising tattoo-in at the Royal Ink in Anfield, which the lavishly tattooed LFC defender Martin Skrtel has pledged to support by helping to decorate the body of one of the fans. Skrtel will also donate his shirt from yesterday's Liverpool game against Aston Villa to be raffled.

Stand up for your rights

The shadow of Hillsborough continues to loom large over the debate about whether any standing areas should be reintroduced in the top two divisions in England, where they have been banned since 1989. The Football Supporters' Federation have stepped up their campaign for safe standing and have the support of a dozen Football League clubs as well as Aston Villa, who made the case for it to a group of MPs at Westminster last week. But different police forces and senior officers are divided on the issue and Hillsborough campaigners, like the Premier League, are opposed. Meanwhile in Germany, where Bundesliga clubs have standing areas with tip-up seats, fans have promised new protests after the football authorities implemented their crackdown on behaviour at games, which includes the right to deny away supporters any tickets for high-profile games.

Drury treats himself

Fan-friendly Bradford City's victory over Arsenal and two more TV games to come in their Capital One Cup semi-final (the draw is on Wednesday night) may have done wonders for the club's finances, but poor relations Bradford Park Avenue, a Football League club until 1970, live in a different world; so much so that left-back Martin Drury has just paid for his medical treatment for a knee injury. He was hurt in the Blue Square Bet North game at Histon and paid for private treatment in the hope that he could return before the end of the season.

Vocal support for Vale

On a lighter note, Port Vale almost benefited from a boost to the crowd at their home game with Chesterfield when police waiting for visiting supporters escorted two coachloads to the ground with full flashing-blue-light treatment. On boarding the coaches at Vale Park, they discovered 90 surprised female members of a Staffordshire choir, who had been on their way to a Christmas concert rehearsal in Stoke. The ladies spontaneously treated them to a rendition of Stoke City's anthem, "Delilah".

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@stevetongue

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