This is why Sheffield Wednesday has been ordered to make changes at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough

Sheffield Wednesday has been ordered to change the way home supporters exit Hillsborough as there is a lack of available space to ‘hold back’ away fans at the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

By Sam Cooper
Monday, 12 August, 2019, 14:00

The club was served with a prohibition notice last week which stops home fans being released from the north and south stands onto the Leppings Lane forecourt at the west end of the stadium.

A war of words broke out following the announcement after the Owls issued a strongly worded statement saying they disagreed with both the decision and its timing on the eve of their first home game of the season against Barnsley on Saturday.

Then, South Yorkshire Police responded saying the club’s response to the report had been ‘inadequate’ and their mist recent statement was ‘factually incorrect and misleading’.

Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough Stadium. Picture: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

The order was imposed following concerns raised about crowd trouble at the Steel City Derby between Wednesday and Sheffield United in March this year.

The force has also now published full details of a report compiled by experts at Manchester Metropolitan University.

It showed how Ben Cowcill, from the university, visited Hillsborough during Wednesday’s game with Aston Villa on Saturday, April 6.

The report said: “During this particular egress a number of flash points occurred [...] a number of rival fans engaging in a heated argument, with police resources needed to intervene and prevent any escalation.

“Coupled with the footage from the derby fixture this appears to be a potentially common theme and risk.”

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The report also found that there was not enough space outside the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough to ‘hold’ away supporters.

And in relation to ‘holding’ fans back within the concourse, the report added: “When looking at the potential for holdback a major factor is to examine the suitability of the environment the fans are to be held in; other factors do include fan behaviour, threat and risk, potential for breaches of the peace etc.”

It added: “The concourse is narrow in width, approximately 4m in total, with a total length of approximately 65m. This total area space is calculated at a maximum of 260m2.

“The desired and safe capacity of the concourse requires the density as no more than two persons per m2, utilising the Green Guide. Using this figure and the relevant area space of this concourse, the number of people able to remain on the concourse is 520 persons, using the maximum space of 260m2 at a density of two persons per m2.

“When considered the option of a holdback a quick calculation shows that for the 3,951 away fans in attendance for the SWFC v SUFC fixture, only 13 per cent of the fans could be safely ‘accommodated’ in this area at any one time.”

The report added that Sheffield Wednesday estimated that around half of home supporters would use the exit from north stand towards the Leppings Lane of the ground.

It said: “Should a holdback be deemed necessary then considerations to use the area ‘outside’ need to be considered. In its current layout, though, as seen in the review of the SWFC v SUFC fixture this would not be a safe option either.”

It recommended that home fans left the ground towards the East and not towards Leppings Lane and that a consideration to holdback was ‘not advisable’ in its current format due to lack of available and safe space and time spent in the particular environment’.