By Mike Collett
LONDON, April 12 (Reuters) - Ninety-six seats were left empty and draped with Liverpool scarves at the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday as English soccer paused to remember the Hillsborough tragedy that took place 25 years ago this weekend.
Matches in the top eight senior English divisions kicked off at seven minutes past the hour to mark the anniversary with the especially poignant commemoration taking place at the national stadium where Arsenal were up against Wigan Athletic.
The disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, occurred on April 15, 1989 with the match abandoned at 3.06pm, six minutes after kickoff.
Every senior game in England kicked off late with a minute's silence following the six-minute delay to kickoff times.
At Wembley the 96 seats were left empty level with the half-way line each with a Liverpool scarf laid on it.
The captains of both Arsenal and Wigan were laying wreaths in the technical area with the names of the victims visible on the electronic scoreboard around the stadium.
Players wore black armbands, and fans and players alike observed the minute's silence in the Premier League, the three Football League divisions, the Conference and the Conference's three feeder leagues.
The memorial was expected to be observed at lower leagues throughout the country as well.
Services are also being held at Liverpool's home ground Anfield and neighbouring Goodison Park, the home of Everton on Tuesday, the actual anniversary of the tragedy, the worst sporting disaster in British sporting history.
A new inquest into the disaster opened last week and is expected to last until next year. (Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Martyn Herman)