In 1989, at an FA Cup match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, the Hillsborough disaster took the lives of 97 football fans. The cause was overcrowding, which led to a crush amongst spectators. More than three decades later, legal action continues, with the families of those affected still seeking acknowledgement, compensation, and crucially, justice.
In the two weeks that have followed the horrific events which took the lives of ten people at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival, similar themes have begun to arise. Instagram apologies only go so far, and as lawsuits begin to take shape, families of the deceased will understandably be desperate to know how their loved ones were allowed to die at a concert with a five-million-dollar budget.
Thus far, Travis Scott and collaborator Drake have come under fire for their perceived role in the tragedy. Both stand accused of inciting the crowd crush through efforts to ‘hype’ up the crowd. Videos showing Scott continuing his performance while spectators receive medical attention have led to suggestions that his neglect was a contributing factor in the deaths of those in attendance. At Hillsborough, the match was stopped after only a few minutes. By contrast, Astroworld continued for almost three quarters of an hour.
The tragedy that took place in Houston will affect the live music industry, drawing discussions over crowd safety into the main stream. In the UK, the impact of Hillsborough is still seen today. The new year will see the first use of ‘safe standing’ areas in Premier League grounds, with standing crowds having been banned for over thirty years.
Progress towards this point has been long and arduous. For decades football chiefs have ignored the behaviour of spectators and sought to ban what they perceive as being dangerous, rather than reshape venues to accommodate fans better. The truth is that in the years since the ban on standing was introduced, fans have continued to stand regardless.. While the events of Hillsborough have never been repeated, the ‘safe standing’ model, which has been introduced successfully at Celtic, proves equally safe and is purpose built.
All this should be considered by those who seek to learn from the disaster at Astroworld. Rather than place focus on banning certain forms of crowd behaviour, organisers should build events with this in mind. Inquests may come to show that there were too many in attendance at Astroworld, but the severity of the crush should not have been allowed to occur regardless. Rather than live in denial, those in power should acknowledge that amidst the chaos of a live event, little can be done to enforce rules outlawing actions like moshing, for example. Greater use of barriers and separations between different areas of the crowd would be much more effective and show action befitting of the risks at hand.
Like Hillsborough, the most important thing to remember will be that those in attendance should never be blamed for the mismanagement of those in charge.
Illustration via: Rhiann Johnston