Owls apologise for first time over safety breaches at club’s ground

MOURNERS gathered at Hillsborough to pay their respects as Sheffield Wednesday issued an apology for the first time over safety breaches at the club’s ground.

The Taylor Report, published in 1990 a year after the disaster, criticised Hillsborough Stadium, calling the Leppings Lane End where fans were crushed ‘unsatisfactory and ill-suited’.

It later emerged the venue did not have a valid safety certificate at the time of the tragedy.

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Despite the findings, Sheffield Wednesday refused to make a conciliatory gesture towards the victims’ relatives until a memorial was installed in 1999 following years of protests.

In a statement released yesterday, Milan Mandaric offered “sincere condolences and an apology to all the families who have suffered”, and insisted a policy of complete compliance with the Hillsborough Independent Panel had been conducted since a change of regime in 2010.

“We can only hope that the publication of the panel report goes some way to providing the closure sought by all those involved,” he added.

“The thoughts of everyone at Sheffield Wednesday FC remain with the 96 Liverpool supporters who lost their lives, their families, and the wider Liverpool community who have all been affected so deeply by the disaster of 23 years ago.”

The report, compiled by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, said the disaster was “foreseeable” as deficiencies at the ground were known.

“It is evident that the safety of the crowd admitted to the terrace was compromised at every level,” it said. “Access to the turnstiles from the public highway; the condition and adequacy of the turnstiles; the management of the crowd by South Yorkshire Police and the Sheffield Wednesday stewards; alterations to the terrace, particularly the construction of pens; the condition and placement of crush barriers; access to the central pens; emergency egress from the pens via small gates in the perimeter fence; and lack of precise monitoring of crowd capacity within the pens.

“These deficiencies were well known and further overcrowding problems at the turnstiles in 1987 and on the terrace in 1988 were additional indications of the inherent dangers to crowd safety. The risks were known and the crush in 1989 was foreseeable.”