Sheffield Wednesday told Hillsborough's safety certificate has changed
EXCLUSIVE: Sheffield Wednesday are told Hillsborough’s safety certificate has been changed to include capacity reduction… and they must go to court to fight it if they do not make Leppings Lane improvements after Newcastle fans reported crushing
- The League One club informed the reduction applies to matches going forward
- Review undertaken following concerns raised by Newcastle fans in January
- Issue of transparency over supporter safety to be raised in Parliament
Sheffield Wednesday have been told that Hillsborough’s safety certificate has now been changed to include a capacity reduction — and that they must go to court to overturn the decision if they do not make improvements to guarantee supporter safety.
Sheffield City Council have informed the League One club that the certificate they issued last summer now includes a 1,000-spectator reduction in the Leppings Lane end, and that it applies to all matches going forward.
This comes after a review was undertaken by the council’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG) following concerns raised by Newcastle fans who reported overcrowding and crushing during an FA Cup tie on January 7. The SAG concluded that the capacity of Leppings Lane should be reduced from 4,700 to 3,700.
Wednesday challenged the council’s request this week on the grounds that they did not breach their safety certificate, insisting the full capacity should be restored.
However, the council have now told Sportsmail that the certificate they issued before the start of this season is no longer valid in its original form and the club have three options. They can accept the reduction, challenge it through the courts or enter into a discussion whereby they submit evidence proving that stadium amendments are safe and demonstrate how they will be managed.
Sheffield Wednesday have been told that Hillsborough’s safety certificate has now been changed to include a capacity reduction
Newcastle fans (pictured ) raised concerns about overcrowding during their FA Cup tie
If the council are satisfied that necessary improvements have been implemented, the safety certificate could be re-amended to allow for the 4,700 capacity.
News of a temporary capacity reduction only came to light this week when Newcastle requested and published the findings from the SAG review. Head coach Eddie Howe has read some of the witness statements from supporters that were presented as evidence.
Asked if he found their accounts distressing, he said: ‘Absolutely, especially with the history attached to the stadium. That was hugely concerning for me. We owed it to our supporters to push to reveal the findings. If there is anything to learn from our experience at that game, to help supporters in the future, then it is a must.’
Meanwhile, Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah is set to ask a parliamentary question on the transparency of issues surrounding supporter safety. She was concerned to learn that it took the request from Newcastle to bring the SAG findings into the public domain.
Ms Onwurah told Sportsmail: ‘The fact Newcastle had to ask for the minutes of the safety review meeting is unacceptable. Safety has to be transparent. Otherwise, you have no confidence.
‘Some of my constituents got in touch in January and raised concerns about their safety at Hillsborough. They were scared. I raised two parliamentary questions in January and was told the matter was being investigated.
‘I was then pleased with the recommendations to improve safety at the stadium, but I am worried that the decision to reduce the capacity has been challenged. I will raise my concerns again.
‘This is not an attack on Sheffield Wednesday or their fans — it is about ensuring transparency, accountability and safety for all supporters.’
Former Wednesday captain Don Megson, who made 442 appearances for the club between 1959 and 1970, has died at the age of 86.
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