Liverpool stars have joined relatives of the 96 Hillsborough stadium disaster victims as the club marked the 25th anniversary of the tragedy with a solemn memorial service at Anfield.
Club captain Steven Gerrard and former manager Kenny Dalglish were among those in a crowd of about 25,000 who gathered to honour the Liverpool fans killed after a crush during an FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield in 1989.
A minute’s silence took place at 3.06pm, reflecting the moment the fateful game against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground was called off.
Beforehand, local religious leaders read out the names of those who had died, while each was illuminated on the inside of a giant ring sculpture standing in front of the stadium’s iconic Kop stand.
The number 96 was written on the pitch in large numerals made up of scarves donated by fans and various sporting institutions.
Scarves were also draped over 96 seats in the stadium that had been symbolically left empty, while supporters attached scarves to the Shankly Gates beside the Hillsborough memorial outside the ground.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and his Everton counterpart Roberto Martinez were among several figures to give readings.
“Without doubt the single biggest source of inspiration for me is every match-day here at Anfield, when I arrive at the ground and I see the Hillsborough memorial, where I see 96 names,” Rodgers said.
“Those who we lost, and for those of you who have fought and campaigned tirelessly on their behalf, and on behalf of the survivors, you are the real, true inspiration for us.”
After a long campaign by the victims’ families, an independent report into the disaster concluded in 2012 that 41 of those who died would have had the “potential to survive” if they had received medical treatment more quickly.
Fresh inquests into the 96 deaths opened recently, while two investigations into the police’s handling of the disaster are also being carried out.