Closing Supertram when Sheffield Wednesday play Leeds United is "an embarrassment to the city", says MP Clive Betts

Sheffield Wednesday's Fernando Forestieri (left) and Leeds United's Barry Douglas battle for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at Hillsborough last year. Pic: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Sheffield Wednesday's Fernando Forestieri (left) and Leeds United's Barry Douglas battle for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at Hillsborough last year. Pic: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
0
Have your say

An MP has described plans to stop trams running between the city centre and Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground around the time of an upcoming match with Leeds United as an "embarrassment to the city".

Labour's Clive Betts has called for council and police bosses to work with Sheffield Wednesday to avoid public services in the city council from "grinding to a halt because of a football match".

The Yorkshire derby clash kicks off at 12.30pm on Saturday, with Sheffield's Supertram due to be closed from 10.30am to 12.30pm and from 1.30pm to 3.30pm because of violent altercations at last year's fixture.

Read more: Smaller towns will be hit harder and faster by high street decline, says Yorkshire MP Clive Betts

Read more: How Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday created a Steel City hoodoo for Arsenal

Supertram said the match last year saw "serious incidents including vandalism and damage to our trams, and more seriously intimidation to our staff with physical and verbal assaults".

Bosses said suggestions to manage "potentially difficult fixtures", such as reducing the number of away tickets and managing the transport of away fans, were rejected by Sheffield Wednesday.

Supertram said in a statement: "In light of this and following discussions with South Yorkshire Police, we have regretfully had to take the difficult decision to suspend tram services between the city centre and Hillsborough for a period of time prior to the game and after the game."

In a letter to Labour-run Sheffield City Council, South Yorkshire Police and the club, Mr Betts, said it was "an embarrassment to the city, quite frankly, that public services grind to a halt because of a football match".

He said: “This is really disappointing not merely for those Wednesday fans who regularly go on the tram and we want to try and encourage people to go by public transport wherever possible, but also for the many other people who are not going to the game that day, who presumably want to do simple things like shopping and who will be considerably disadvantaged.

"Please could you explain to me why, between the council, the club and the police, it is not possible to make arrangements so that trams can run. Could we see if people could start working together to stop this sort of thing from happening?”

He added: "I am far from convinced that there is a common constructive approach to finding solutions.

"It appears that all of the players are firmly bedded down in their bunkers, appearing just occasionally to fire off the latest threats of legal action.

"The city desires, needs and expects all the chiefs to get out of their bunkers, to get on the pitch and play for the same objectives.”

South Yorkshire Police said in a statement that it supported the decision by Supertram and was "disappointed a satisfactory resolution could not be reached for this fixture".

It said: "The safety of all those attending the match, including spectators, SWFC staff, and police officers, plus the local residents and members of the public who may be affected remains our utmost priority.

"We will continue to advise the Safety Advisory Group of our concerns surrounding this fixture until we can be reassured of the safety of all involved."

Last week Coun Penny Baker, the leader of the Sheffield Liberal Democrats, said of the decision: “This will cause utter chaos. Lib Dem councillors are concerned that by closing the tram service at these particular times, it will force fans to travel earlier and leave later, lengthening the period of disruption.

“Fans may also opt to travel by car, filling up spaces on residential streets and making it impossible for residents to park outside their houses.

“This is not in the spirit of encouraging people to use public transport and be more environmentally-friendly. The normal bus service is likely to be overcrowded and limit the use for non-football passengers.

“One measure suggested was that Sheffield Wednesday put on transport from the train station to Hillsborough stadium.”

Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Wednesday have been approached for comment.