LONDON – The English Football Association apologized Thursday to the city of Liverpool and the families of 96 fans who died in the Hillsborough stadium tragedy in 1989, Britain's worst sports disaster.
Secret papers disclosed Wednesday from an independent panel said Hillsborough, the home of Sheffield Wednesday, didn't have a valid safety certificate when it hosted the fateful FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Nearly 800 others were injured when police officers herded about 2,000 Liverpool fans into caged-in enclosures that were already full.
The report said crowd-safety dangers at the stadium were well known and "foreseeable," and Sheffield Wednesday's "primary consideration was cost" rather than safety.
"We are deeply sorry this tragedy occurred at a venue the FA selected," FA chairman David Bernstein said. "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."
Bernstein wasn't in his current FA post when the tragedy occurred 23 years ago.
A total of 94 supporters died on the day — two more died later, one in 1993.
Findings in the report exposed a shameful attempt by police to shift the blame to Liverpool fans by instructing officers to change statements and insinuating that many supporters were drunk and had histories of violence or criminality.
A government-appointed panel found that injured fans were denied medical treatment that could have saved their lives. Panel member Dr. Bill Kirkup said 41 fans had the "potential to survive."
Bernstein praised the tireless commitment shown by the families of the victims who refused to accept the findings of the original inquest into the tragedy.
"This should never have happened. Nobody should lose their lives when setting out to attend a football match," Bernstein said, "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 ... The FA and English football has changed immeasurably, and learned many lessons in the last 23 years."
Sheffield Wednesday officials have apologized to the families of the 96 fans who were killed, saying it hopes the release of the documents by the panel "goes some way to providing the closure sought by all those involved."