Martin Tyler criticised after appearing to link Hillsborough disaster to football ‘hooligan’ incidents

BBC radio failed to challenge the commentator’s words during a radio interview

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Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler has been widely criticised after appearing to link the Hillsborough disaster with “other hooligan-related issues” while speaking on BBC Radio .

A total of 97 supporters died as a result of the crush which occured at the Sheffield Wednesday stadium after attending an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April, 1989.

The 1990 Taylor Report investigating the tragedy ruled that a failure of crowd control by South Yorkshire Police (SYP) was the primary reason for the deaths, while a coroner inquest between 2014 and 2016 ruled those supporters were unlawfully killed and that fans’ behaviour had no contribution to the disaster.

This was in contrast to stories from the SYP, who criticised Liverpool supporters for arriving late, without tickets or being drunk, all of which was disproven during the inquests which highlighted how the disaster was a failure of emergency services – entirely unrelated to accusations of football hooliganism.

Tyler’s words on the Today show, therefore, have sparked an immediate backlash as he commented that “football was in a bit of a crisis at that time. We weren’t that long after Hillsborough and other hooligan-related issues as well.

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“It was very much a difficult time for the game generally.”

Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram labelled Tyler’s comments “extremely crass” and demanded a retraction. “Even now, people whose careers are built on football still spread these foul smears. I hope there’ll be an apology sharpish,” he wrote on Twitter.

Tyler had been speaking ahead of the start of the 30th Premier League season, which begins on Friday night.

Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, Paula Barker, also accused BBC Radio of allowing Tyler to “perpetuate these lies”, while journalists in the region also demanded an apology and criticised the lack of challenge to his “false claim”.

The BBC have since released a short statement apologising for opting to not “robustly challenge” Tyler’s words.

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The 76-year-old has also attempted to explain what he was trying to say, suggesting that the two – Hillsborough and hooligan-related issues – were different types of incidents that English football as a whole was trying to cope with at the time of the Premier League’s beginning.

Earlier this summer, Tyler had to issue an on-air apology for saying Ukraine international Heorhiy Bushchan would have to “soldier on” during a match after picking up an injury, in the midst of the invasion of Russia into the goalkeeper’s nation.

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