Sheffield Wednesday have reduced the capacity of their stadium Hillsborough following a safety review by Sheffield City Council about alleged congestion in their match against Newcastle in January.
Newcastle fans in the away end complained about overcrowding and crushing during their FA cup tie on January 7th, with claims of congestion around the Leppings Lane end and of a lack of stewarding before kick off.
After review, Hillsborough’s Upper West Stand now has a further reduced capacity of 2400 (down from 3200 for a stand with a holding capacity of 4194) and the Lower West Stand now has a further reduced capacity of 1300 (down from 1500 for a stand with a holding capacity of 2366).
In the Sheffield Advisory Group (SAG) meeting, the council concluded that neither of the Leppings Lane stands were over capacity, stewarding numbers were appropriate and there were no injuries recorded.
However, they did find that crowds were condensed into quite small areas on the lower stand, which they speculated was as a result of ‘a lack of proactive stewarding’ and ‘a layout not conducive to balanced access to the seating area’.
They found issues in the upper stand too, with findings stating: ‘CCTV shows the upper concourse to be extremely busy and estimated to be over the Green Guide figure of 3.3 persons per square meter. This would have felt crowded at least for the fans in that area and make traversing the concourse difficult.’
They say ‘CCTV or social media did not show any evidence of fans in distress in this area’, but some Newcastle fans did in fact voice their feelings of discomfort.
Chris Longstaff, a Newcastle supporter who attended the match, said: ‘I’d have hated to be a kid in that sardine tin. I was there in the upper tier and the concourse at the back is way too small to accommodate a full capacity. You’d think they’d be thankful that issues like this are flagged considering that particular stand’s history.’
Sheffield City Council say they requested the Newcastle Supporters Trust for any images or footage of the issues described, but none had been received by the date of the meeting.
In 1989 97 fans were killed in a crush at the Leppings Lane end of the ground during a semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Peter Scarfe, who runs the Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance, said: ‘It’s 2023, nearly 34 years after 97 plus lives were lost at this ground, and still nothing has been learnt. How is that tunnel still even there?’
Many supporters and critics see this as further evidence that the Leppings Lane stand is unsafe and needs to be replaced with a safer alternative.
Tom, a Rotherham fan, said online: ‘Whether or not there was a ‘crush’, that end is antiquated and should have been pulled down decades ago.’