Sheffield Wednesday appeal against decision to reduce capacity at Hillsborough
Newcastle fans raised concerns about overcrowding in the away end at the ground after their side's FA Cup third-round defeat to the Owls in January.
Ninety-seven Liverpool fans died as a result of a crush in the Leppings Lane End at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest. After complaints from Newcastle fans, capacity in the Leppings Lane End has been reduced from 4,700 to 3,700 following a review by Sheffield City Council, overseen by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA). The review found Wednesday had not breached their safety certificate and the number of fans in the Lower and Upper West Stands were below the numbers permitted. During the review Wednesday voluntarily offered to reduce the capacity for last month's sold-out League One fixture against Plymouth and since there was no breach, are now challenging the council's decision to enact that until the end of the season. A Wednesday spokesperson told the PA news agency: "Sheffield Wednesday will continue to liaise with all relevant parties." Richard Eyre, the council's director of street scene and regulations, said in a statement reported by the Sheffield Star: "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 matchday experience. "It should be made clear that Hillsborough Stadium never breached its capacity or its safety certificate at any time." The minutes of the Safety Advisory Group meeting called by the council confirmed the review was prompted by a post on social media which included an image taken nine minutes before kick-off in the Newcastle game which purported to show "fans in distress and a lack of stewarding". However, evidence from matchday records revealed no reports of CCTV footage of spectators in distress recorded by event control, and stewarding numbers were in excess of safety certificate requirements. Around 50 travelling supporters offered their accounts of what happened on the day after the council contacted the Newcastle United Supporters' Trust. On Thursday, Newcastle boss Eddie Howe said the Premier League club fully supported their fans for raising concerns. Howe said: "With those eyewitness accounts, they should be encouraged to listen to that feedback because it is only the supporters that are living that experience. "Anything that can help the long-term success and safety of match-day experiences of the supporters is crucial, so we need to gather those findings and try to implement the changes that improves it." Howe said he had been "hugely" concerned when hearing of some of the fans' accounts. He added: "Absolutely, especially with the history attached to the stadium. That was hugely concerning for me. The safety is the paramount importance."
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