David Duckenfield and Norman Bettison have been charged with criminal offences over the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath.
They are among six individuals that have been charged following two major investigations that focused on the causes of the tragedy and the alleged cover-up that followed.
South Yorkshire Ambulance service are not among those facing charges.
Each of those charged will now appear in court - and could face trials - after the launch of legal proceedings against them.
Just over 28 years after the disaster unfolded on the Leppings Lane terraces the families of the 96 Reds fans who died, survivors and campaigners were told of the charges in a private briefing by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Sue Hemming, head of the organisation’s special crime and counter-terrorism division, broke the news to those gathered at Parr Hall in Warrington at 11am.
In reaching the decisions, lawyers from the CPS have spent six months examining evidence against 23 suspects identified by the two criminal probes launched in 2012.
Those charged are:
· David Duckenfield, who was the Match Commander for South Yorkshire Police on the day of the disaster
· Graham Henry Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday Football Club’s company secretary and safety officer at the time of the disaster in 1989
· Peter Metcalf, the solicitor acting for the South Yorkshire Police during the Taylor Inquiry and the first inquests
· Former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton of South Yorkshire Police
· Former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster of South Yorkshire Police
· Norman Bettison, a former officer with South Yorkshire Police and subsequently Chief Constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire Police
Each of the suspects will now be given court dates as criminal proceedings begin.
Any that plead not guilty to the allegations against them are likely to face a crown court trial.
The charges follow a complex process of investigations that followed the work of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which concluded in 2012.
David Duckenfield, the former South Yorkshire police chief superintendent who was in command of the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough in 1989, which cost 96 people their lives, has failed with a further application to have his prosecution for manslaughter stopped.
The judge who will preside over Duckenfield’s trial, Sir Peter Openshaw, rejected his application for a stay of prosecution, following a hearing at Preston crown court on Thursday.
The trial, on criminal charges of causing death by gross negligence manslaughter of 95 people attending the semi-final, is scheduled to start in Preston on 14 January. He has already pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Duckenfield previously applied in June for the prosecution to be stopped on legal grounds, but Openshaw dismissed that application, and also lifted a stay on prosecution, which had been ordered following previous proceedings in 2000.
The Crown Prosecution Service has not sought a manslaughter charge against Duckenfield in relation to the 96th person who died, Tony Bland, who was 18 when he went to support Liverpool at the semi-final against Nottingham Forest. Bland suffered critical brain injuries in the crush on Hillsborough’s Leppings Lane terrace, and was placed on life support in hospital. The life support was turned off four years later, in 1993, following a court application made by his family.
According to the law in 1989, a charge of manslaughter cannot be applied in relation to a person who has died longer than a year and a day after the alleged criminal acts occurred.
Graham Mackrell, the former secretary of Sheffield Wednesday football club, which has Hillsborough as its home ground, faces two criminal charges for alleged breaches of safety legislation and his duties as the club’s safety officer, and will stand trial at the same time as Duckenfield.
Three other men are charged with criminal offences, which are due to be heard in September next year. Donald Denton, a former South Yorkshire police chief superintendent at the time of the disaster, Denton’s then deputy, former Ch Insp Alan Foster, and the then South Yorkshire police force solicitor, Peter Metcalf, are charged with undertaking acts with intent to pervert the course of justice relating to Hillsborough.