Daily Mail

Wednesday told to fight in court or cut capacity


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however, the council have now told Sportsmail that the certificat­e they issued before the start of this season is no longer valid in its original form and the club have three options.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.

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.’ l FORMeR Wednesday captain Don Megson, who made 442 appearance­s for the club between 1959 and 1970, has died at the age of 86.

 ?? AHPIX LTD ?? Packed in: Newcastle fans in Hillsborou­gh’s Leppings Lane end
AHPIX LTD Packed in: Newcastle fans in Hillsborou­gh’s Leppings Lane end
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