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Operations

Sheffield Wednesday appeals Hillsborough capacity ruling

The Leppings Lane End at Hillsborough

Featured image credit: Steve Daniels/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size

English League One football club Sheffield Wednesday has launched an appeal against the decision to restrict capacity at its Hillsborough stadium until the end of the current season.

It was initially revealed earlier this week that the away end at Hillsborough would 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 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 (SGSA).

Hillsborough later passed the review but Sheffield City Council (SCC) advised that the Leppings Lane End operate at a reduced capacity. During the review, Wednesday volunteered to drop the Leppings Lane End capacity down from 4,700 to 3,700 for the sold-out match against Plymouth Argyle on February 4.

The Council this week said this figure could be retained until the end of the 2022-23 season, which has now been confirmed despite Wednesday having been cleared of a breach of its Safety Certificate. Instead, 15 ‘minor recommendations’ of improvement were put forward to the club.

Wednesday have now appealed this decision, with a club spokesperson telling the BBC that it would “continue to liaise with all relevant parties”.

“The recommendations included enhanced training and development for stewards, improved CCTV and a review into the capacity of the stands,” Richard Eyre, SCC’s director of street scene and regulations, said, according to local newspaper The Star.

“Although there was no immediate recommendation to do so, the club voluntarily offered to reduce the capacity in the Upper and Lower West Stands. Sheffield City Council agreed this was the right thing to do prior to a robust review having taken place and since then the reduction request has become a formal requirement so to improve the matchday experience.

“It should be made clear that Hillsborough Stadium never breached its capacity or its Safety Certificate at any time.”

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