SGSA reviewing FA Cup tie at Hillsborough

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The Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) has announced a review of the scenes at Hillsborough Stadium on Saturday, following reports of overcrowding at the venue during its staging of the FA Cup third-round tie between Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United.

The 4,500-strong away following from Premier League club Newcastle were housed in the Leppings Lane End, with multiple reports of congestion issues around the exit to the tunnel in the stand ahead of the match.

There were also reports of fans removing security screening in an effort to give themselves more room, while there have been complaints over the stewarding provision for the game.

The SGSA, which is the UK Government’s advisor on safety at sports grounds and issues licences to the 90 Premier League and English Football League (EFL) grounds, said: “We are concerned by reports of overcrowding and crushing at the FA Cup tie between Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United at Hillsborough Stadium on Saturday evening.

“The SGSA is now working with the club (Wednesday), Sheffield City Council and the Safety Advisory Group to review the event, learn any lessons and ensure a safe environment for football fans.”

Hillsborough, and the Leppings Lane End, was the scene of the stadium disaster in 1989 which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans. Peter Scarfe, who attended the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, and now runs the Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance, told the PA news agency: “Grounds now are about standing and rail seating and you kind of think this wouldn’t happen any more, but it seems to in Sheffield.

“It is a disaster waiting to happen. Nearly 34 years of experience and research and mistakes to learn from and they just obviously haven’t. It’s history repeating itself isn’t it? Lessons obviously haven’t been learned.”

Sheffield Wednesday today (Wednesday) said it has responded to a request from the Football Association (FA) and has submitted its “comprehensive observations” to the governing body. A club statement added: “Whilst it is inappropriate to outline in full the details of the submission at this time, the club feels it is important to emphasise that the stewarding numbers in place within the visitors’ section of the stadium exceeded the requirements of the Safety Certificate. The allocation of tickets issued to Newcastle supporters also complied absolutely with the Safety Certificate.

“In addition, fewer supporters entered the visitors’ turnstiles when aligned to the number of tickets allocated and sold. The turnstiles were opened 30 minutes earlier than a regular matchday, two hours before kick-off at 4pm, to allow Newcastle supporters to enter the stadium in a timely a manner as possible.

“There were no reports of injuries or medical assistance required on the West Stand logged with the club’s first aid operations manager before, during and after the game.”