Newcastle fans have warned Sheffield Wednesday that they risk supporters suffering serious injury unless they improve safety in the away end at Hillsborough — yet the League One club have remained silent.
There were 4,500 traveling supporters in the Leppings Lane end for Saturday’s FA Cup tie and many have reported severe overcrowding and crushing before the game and at half-time, leaving children in tears and parents scrambling to safety with them.
The problems centered on the bar in the concourse and when fans were attempting to enter the seated area through a narrow gangway. Once in the lower tier, they were forced to rip a covering from seats that were out of use to relieve the crowd pressure.
Newcastle fans have warned Sheffield Wednesday they risk supporters suffering serious injury
There were 4,500 traveling supporters in the Leppings Lane end for Saturday’s FA Cup tie and many have reported severe overcrowding and crushing
The FA are investigating the claims and will liaise with both clubs as well as South Yorkshire Police. Despite several requests from Sportsmail for comment, Wednesday have refused to offer any guidance surrounding the concerns.
Newcastle are in touch with their Supporters’ Trust, who have gathered witness statements, and will ensure all correspondence is given to the authorities.
It was 34 years ago — at the same end of the ground — that 97 Liverpool supporters lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster. But fans say the stand’s design and narrow access tunnels, along with non-existent crowd management, makes it far too dangerous by modern standards.
Sportsmail has spoken to several of those present to build a picture of how the issues unfolded. Chris Johnson, 38, arrived half an hour before kick-off and was shocked at the scenes in the upper-tier concourse.
97 Liverpool fans were tragically killed in the away end at Hillsborough after a disaster in 1989
‘Fans were trying to get into the stands but there were two stewards at every access point,’ he said. ‘They either weren’t letting people through or were triple-checking tickets, as it was taking an age to get fans upstairs.
‘It caused a massive crush around the bar area in the concourse. I tried to get through and it was madness, you just couldn’t. I’m a decent size and could hold my own, but one boy, around 14 years old, was crying. He was getting squashed in the crowd and was having what looked like a panic attack.
‘I saw another guy with two boys, around 10 and 13, and they were getting squashed too. I tried to help him because you could see the kids were distressed.
‘My first thought was, ‘I was going to bring my eight-year-old son today, I’m so glad I didn’t’. The only option was to get the kids on your shoulders and to safety as quickly as possible.
‘The concourse area is too narrow. They either need to widen that or put a system in place that gets fans to their seats quicker. The flow of people does not work.
‘People were getting desperate and shouting, ‘Let them up, let them up!’ The only way the pressure was going to be relieved was if fans got to their seats and out of the concourse, which is nowhere near big enough to accommodate the thousands in the top tier. The set-up is dangerous and we were lucky no one was seriously hurt.’
Chris Longstaff, 37, said: ‘We got in early and to our seats with no problems. But it was at half-time in the concourse when the problems started. We were like tinned sardines and it took me the full 15 minutes to get to the toilet. It would have been horrifying for children.
‘I heard several screams and the proximity to others was so uncomfortable. This issue probably won’t arise in League One this season, but they need to prepare themselves for crowds such as Saturday. You worry about what happened in 1989 and history repeating itself.’
League One Wednesday won the match 2-1 thanks to a double from forward Josh Windass
Robbie Millar, 31, was with his dad, who was attending his first post-Covid match. They, too, were concerned for their safety.
‘The concourse was absolutely packed 20 minutes before kick-off,’ he said. ‘The gangway to the seated area was too narrow and there were two stewards checking tickets. There was the classic rush just before kick-off and that was when it became quite scary. Nothing was moving at all.
‘People were calling it a ‘death tunnel’, and you could see how the situation could have escalated. Once we were through it was chaos. You came straight out into a row of seats. It took us 20 minutes to go 50 yards.
‘The crowd management needs to be far better, there was nothing. Fans recognized the issues and were sensible in getting through it. But it could have been far, far worse.’