Sheffield Wednesday see capacity reduced in Leppings Lane End after Newcastle United fans' concerns

THE capacity in two sections of the Leppings Lane End at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground has been reduced after concerns were raised by visiting Newcastle United fans earlier this season.

Magpies supporters at the FA Cup third-round tie on January 7 reported overcrowding at the ground, leading to a review by Sheffield City Council with co-operation from Wednesday and overseen by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA).

Ninety-seven Liverpool fans died as a result of a crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough.

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The review found the number of fans in the Lower and Upper West Stands at the Leppings Lane End were below the numbers permitted under the safety certificate.

Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium.Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium.
Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium.

However, Sheffield City Council confirmed to Newcastle that as a result of the review, the Upper West Stand capacity has been reduced from 3,200 to 2,400 and the Lower West Stand capacity from 1,500 to 1,300.

In a statement published on the Magpies’ official website, the council said: “Regarding capacity reduction, we can advise that: the Upper West Stand now has a further reduced capacity of 2,400 (down from 3,200 as a result of the recent review) for a stand with a holding capacity of 4,194.

“The Lower West Stand now has a further reduced capacity of 1,300 (down from 1,500 as a result of the recent review) for a stand with a holding capacity of 2,366.”

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The minutes of the Safety Advisory Group meeting called by the council confirmed the review was prompted by a post on social media which included an image taken nine minutes before kick-off which purported to show “fans in distress and a lack of stewarding”.

However, evidence from matchday records revealed no reports of CCTV footage of spectators in distress recorded by event control, and stewarding numbers were in excess of safety certificate requirements.

Around 50 travelling supporters offered their accounts of what happened on the day after the council contacted the Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust.

They cited fewer stewards after the turnstiles directing fans to their seats than before them and ineffectual direction leading to localised overcrowding, as well as tickets being sold in netted-off areas, an error which was rectified before kick-off.

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As well as the reduced capacity, recommendations included increasing the number of available turnstiles, consulting crowd management consultants to advise on safe movement and the deployment of Wednesday’s “most experienced and communicative” stewards at the away end of the stadium.

On the day, the Owls beat their Premier League opponents 2-1 in a famous victory for the League One club.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​