An E-petition demanding full disclosure of all government documents relating to the 1989 Hillborough disaster that killed 96 Liverpool supporters in Sheffield, England is nearing the 100,000 signature mark necessary for debate in the House of Commons.
The petition, created by Liverpool fan and journalist Brian Irvine of thisisanfield.com, was made in response to the British government's unwillingness to release files related to the incident. Information commissioner Christopher Graham requested that the Cabinet Office make the government documents related to the incident public, but the Cabinet Office appealed the decision, prompting Irvine to make the e-petition.
Irvine said he started the e-petition to help the families of victims who died in the disaster, as well as quell any lies and rumors that have been previously reported.
"The release of these documents is crucial to, most importantly, providing closure for the families of the 96 in revealing the true events of April 15, 1989," Irvine was quoted as saying in an article on LiverpoolConfidential.com. "In addition, dispelling the lies and malicious slurs instigated by 'The Sun' newspaper and editor Kelvin McKenzie that have been hanging over the City of Liverpool and the supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the past 22 years."
If the e-petition reaches 100,000 signatures it becomes eligible for debate in the House of Commons. Irvine is hoping the petition — which, as of 1:30 p.m. ET Monday, had over 96,000 signatures — can reach this mark.
"The people affected by Hillsborough have suffered enough to be denied the truth from their own government who can provide them with answers."
On April 15, 1989, 96 Liverpool fans were killed and over 750 others were injured as a result of overcrowding in the stands at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. The Reds were there to face Nottingham Forest in the semifinal of the FA Cup, and Liverpool supporters showed up in full force to support their club. Hillsborough only had room for 14,600 Liverpool fans, which was not enough space to hold the thousands more awaiting to enter the stadium at the outside gates.
In response to pushing and shoving at the entrance gates, authorities opened other gates into the stadium as to avoid any people being crushed in the build-up. When other gates opened, fans rushed inside as the match began, causing a crush of people inside the stadium grounds. Fans could not move to create more room as high steel fencing rested at the edge of the pitch to prevent supporters from interrupting with play. With nowhere to go and a state of hysteria in effect, 96 people were crushed to death by the rush of supporters and 766 others sustained injuries. The match was suspended six minutes in.
Liverpool fans have pressed the British government for a comprehensive report on the disaster, seeking details as to why Liverpool fans were given the smaller end of the stadium and why authorities opened gates to non-ticket holders without proper crowd control.
A number of football managers, players and journalists have used social media outlets to rally support in recent days for more signatures.
LFC manager Kenny Dalglish, who was manager of the Reds during the 1989 incident, took to his Twitter account to gather support for the petition.
"Please sign this petition and RT," Dalglish tweeted with a link to the e-petition. "Think it is very important that we support this."
Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton also took to Twitter to push for more signatures.
"Everybody sign this petition, the truth about hillsborough must come out, all football fans should join together!" he tweeted on Thursday.
BBC's Dan Walker, who hosts Football Focus, tweeted his support for the petition on Wednesday.
"Doesn't matter whether you support #LFC or not. The families of the 96 deserve to know the truth."
On Sunday the Hillsborough Justice Campaign released a statement on behalf of families who lost loved ones in the incident and those who survived the crush.
"We have been truly amazed at the level of commitment and support these past few days," the statement reads in part. "It only reiterates what we have always known – the voices of people from all walks of life are just as loud as ever in their fight for justice and the truth."
Irvine is being hailed by many for bringing the matter to the forefront, an effort he said he made with the victims in mind.
"The only people here that matter are the families of the 96 and I would urge all supporters regardless of affiliations to sign the petition and get it before the people with the power to deliver justice."