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Operations

Hillsborough’s away capacity reduced following overcrowding complaints

Featured image credit: dom fellowes/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size

The away end at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium is set to have its capacity cut after overcrowding concerns were raised following an FA Cup match against Newcastle United in January.

Premier League club Newcastle took 4,500 fans to Hillsborough for the match against League One side Wednesday on January 7. Multiple reports of congestion issues around the exit to the tunnel in the Leppings Lane End ahead of the match prompted a review by the Sports Ground Safety Authority.

Hillsborough later passed the review but Sheffield City Council has now advised that the Leppings Lane End at Hillsborough operate at a reduced capacity.

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.”

The council called a meeting of the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) following a request by Newcastle, in consultation with individual supporters and the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, under the Freedom of Information Act as the club sought to provide fans with greater transparency around safety issues.

Newcastle has now released the minutes of the SAG meeting, which heard that initial concerns were raised after a photograph and report posted on social media by a journalist showed fans congregating around the tunnel in the lower tier of the stand and “purported to show fans in distress and a lack of stewarding”. The image was taken nine minutes before kick-off.

Matchday records showed that there were no reported injuries relating to overcrowding. Newcastle fans shared that the overcrowding led to distress, particularly among children in the upper concourse and lower-tier tunnel, while tickets were said to have been sold in areas that were netted off.

Fans also said that they were directed through the wrong turnstiles, while police and stewards were said to be “unresponsive” to supporters asking for information.

Hillsborough, and the Leppings Lane End, was the scene of the stadium disaster in 1989 which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans.