‘Further action’ threat for Sheffield Wednesday as fans raise safety concerns over effects of prohibition notice restrictions

Sheffield Wednesday have been warned they could face further action if they cannot guarantee safety after fans said they feared for their safety because of restrictions imposed on the club.

Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 17:06 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 17:06 pm

The club were served with a prohibition notice by Sheffield Council which stops home fans being released from the north and south stands onto the Leppings Lane at the west end of the stadium.

Wednesday have lodged appeal paperwork to Sheffield Magistrates’ Court but fans described the situation after Tuesday’s game against Luton Town as ‘absolute carnage’.

John Mothersole, Sheffield Council’s chief exectuive, said it was the responsibility of the club to manage the crowds and fans’ experiences published by The Star ‘suggest this may not be happening’.

John Mothersole, chief executive of Sheffield City Council

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Mr Mothersole said: “When we issued our prohibition notice, we made it very clear that it is the club’s responsibility to put arrangements in place to ensure crowd safety.

“It is very concerning to receive reports of the apparent lack of crowd management in place at Hillsborough Stadium.

“The council assisted the club to recalculate a safe capacity in the north stand as a result of the prohibition notice.

“It is the responsibility of SWFC to effectively manage the crowds and the alleged experience of some fans at last night’s game suggest this may not be happening.

The scene on the north stand concourse after the Owls game with Luton Town. Picture: Rich Davies

“We will be speaking with the club urgently to establish how they intend to resolve this and make certain that they take their responsibility for people’s safety seriously.

“If we are not satisfied that Sheffield Wednesday can fulfil the required safety measures then we will take further action to ensure that everyone who attends games can do so safely.”

It comes after fans told of packed concourses and fans ‘falling into Penistone Road after the Owls’ 1-0 win over Luton.

Victoria Wood, who was sitting on the north stand, said: “I sit bang in the middle but would normally leave at the Leppings Lane end because I only live around the corner but last night was absolute carnage.

“I understand for bigger games something has to be done but last night there was literally about 20 fans.

“Besides from that, they should hold away fans back that’s what they do everywhere else.”

Ms Wood said there were no road or lane closures on Penistone Road after the game and raised concerns about fans’ safety, particular following night matches.

She added: “You have probably got 16,000 to 17,000 fans spilling out onto Penistone Road, which is a dual carriageway. It was pitch black and buses were hurtling past.

“Everyone was trying to get out of one exit and there were people just falling into the road.”

Rich Davies, who was also sitting on the north stand, said the restrictions were ‘not working’ and claimed fans were also left to queue onto Penistone Road before the game.

He said: “We stayed for about 10 minutes after the final whistle and clapped the players off and then when we walked down the steps to the concourse and they were queueing all the way up.

“I wouldn’t have liked my kids to have been in that last night. I’m not saying we were crushed but it wasn’t nice.”

The notice was served on the eve of their first home game of the season against Barnsley following trouble after the Steel City Derby against Sheffield United in March.

The club hit back saying it disagreed with both the decisionand has now lodged appeal paperwork at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court and has requested the licensing sub-committee of Sheffield Council examine the matter in the meantime.

In a statement, South Yorkshire Police said: “Ahead of each fixture in South Yorkshire, a risk assessment takes place with the club and when requested by the club, or when there is a heightened risk of disorder, South Yorkshire Police will support the match with a policing operation.

“On this occasion, as with many matches throughout the season, a policing presence at the ground was not requested.

“The safety of those attending sports stadiums and traffic management around it is the responsibility of the club.

“The Safety Advisory Group (SAG) of which we are one member, agreed the club’s plans on how fans were directed to leave the stadium.

“We would suggest any feedback on the exit from the stadium last night should be fed directly into Sheffield Wednesday for their consideration, ahead of planning for the next fixture.

“We will also seek a debrief with the club and the Safety Advisory Group to discuss further.”