Father of Hillsborough victim says safe standing campaigners must be listened to 3 years ago

Father of Hillsborough victim says safe standing campaigners must be listened to

The father of a teenager who died at Hillsborough has said he is willing to listen to the arguments being put forward in favour of safe standing and has conceded that “they must be acted upon” if the case of those pursuing the campaign is sufficiently strong.

Barry Devonside, whose 18-year-old son Christopher was one of 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster, wants the debate to be assessed on its merits regardless of his own ongoing anguish at the tragic events which took place at Sheffield Wednesday's home ground on April 15, 1989.

“I have had to think about my position over a long period of time and also listen to a lot of people because you can't have a closed mind,” Mr Devonside said. “I think those campaigning for safe standing have a valid argument and that argument should be listened to. 

“That might not be easy for me or for the other families but that doesn't mean their arguments shouldn't be heard. It is not a case of me agreeing with them at the outset because it is up to them to persuade us with the evidence they produce but at the very least I am willing to be open to that.”

Mr Devonside insists the debate should focus on the past failure of English clubs to make the safety of supporters a priority rather than on what he regards as the mistaking belief that standing was one of the main causes of the Hillsborough disaster.


“If you look at the big German clubs, they have found a way of allowing supporters to stand at matches but in a way that does not seem to compromise safety,” he said. “But the safety record of German clubs in general is much better than that of English clubs.

“For me, the English clubs never had safety as a priority in the past. I can remember standing on the Kop at Anfield as a kid and there would be 28,000 people on there. At times I would be lifted in the air by the force and movement of the crowd and I would think it was great but looking back it was anything but, anything could have happened.

“I stood at matches well into my twenties and, to be honest, I loved it like a lot of people did. I enjoyed the sense of camaraderie you got and the feeling of belonging but in hindsight the clubs who had these big terraces were not putting our safety first; in many respects safety was an after-thought. 

" It wasn't standing that caused the deaths of 96 people it was more complex than that but standing and all the other conditions combined contributed to the deaths. You had a situation in which a particular terrace with perimeter and radial fencing was unfit for purpose and added to that the police took the fateful decision to open a tunnel which resulted in supporters heading into an area that was already overcrowded.

“So you can't say that standing was the cause. Was it a factor? Yes. But if the arguments of those who believe safe standing is the way forward are solid enough, they have to be taken heed of regardless of what the families have been through and if their case is strong enough it must be acted upon.

“And another issue that should be taken into account is the affordability of football. In his report, Lord Justice Taylor stressed the need for football to remain as affordable as possible after stadiums became all-seater but that hasn't happened. For that reason, I can understand why the campaigners might see safe standing as a possible solution to that problem but, again, that is an issue that would need to be explored further.”