Football: Major apologises for lack of Hillsborough report

Former British prime minister John Major apologised Tuesday for failing to authorise an independent investigation into the Hillsborough disaster as requested by the families of the victims.

Police put forward "pretty strong views" there was no need for a report but Major, the former leader of Britain's right-wing Conservative Party, said the families of the 96 football fans killed in the tragedy should have been listened to by the authorities.

The tragedy at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, northern England, in April 1989, remains the worst sporting disaster in British history.

The 96 victims, all Liverpool fans, were killed in a crush caused by huge overcrowding on a standing terrace before an FA Cup semi-final between their team and Nottingham Forest.

In December last year, the High Court in London quashed the original coroner's verdicts and called for fresh inquests to be held, while police also launched a new investigation.

That move followed the publication of a damning independent report in September 2012 that concluded that 41 of those who died would have had the "potential to survive" if they had received medical treatment more quickly.

Major, prime minister from 1990 to 1997, told political journalists at a lunch in London on Tuesday: "The Hillsborough report was pretty shocking.

"When there was agitation for a Hillsborough report we had pretty strong police views that there was no need for a report at the time and nowadays I'm not sure that assurance would ring as strongly as it did in the 1990s.

"Self-evidently the Hillsborough families who petitioned and demanded an independent report have been proven to be right and we must all say to them we are sorry, we should have dealt with it a good deal earlier and we should have listened a good deal more carefully.

"And I'm very happy to say that to the Hillsborough families today," Major, a lifelong supporter of London club Chelsea, added.

"We should have done more and I'm sorry in retrospect that we didn't.

"It is one of many things that you can look back on and regret."