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Andrew Robinson

Sheffield Wednesday Fan
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About Andrew Robinson

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    Sheffield Wednesday Reserves
  • Birthday 08/10/1948

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  1. Excellent letter. Nothing has come of mine so far, not even an acknowledgement, but not a surprise. The more letters we all send, the better so please Owlstalk members, get writing.
  2. I have sent a copy of the original letter with a covering note to the Star news desk.
  3. My letter. Mr. John Mothersole, Chief Executive, Sheffield City Council, Town Hall, Pinstone Street, Sheffield S1 2HH Dear Mr Mothersole, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club I am writing to complain in the strongest terms about the restrictions which have recently been imposed at Hillsborough, allegedly in the name of safety, and your recent critical comments about Sheffield Wednesday. I believe that the measures are completely unnecessary but, much more important, are now seriously increasing the safety risks at the football ground. I understand that the prohibitions are as a result of the report from Manchester Metropolitan University dated 30th May 2019 and I have studied this report. I would like to make the following points:- 1 1 I do not accept that there is any direct relationship between the actions being taken now and the tragic disaster of 1989. 1989 was about entrance to the stadium and correct spreading of spectators in a safe way. The current issue appears to be about leaving the stadium. With the results of the Taylor report fully implemented, Hillsborough has seats all around the ground, no fences restricting emergency egress to the pitch or between areas of the ground and has an increased number of turnstiles at Leppings Lane where the concourse was enlarged by moving the wall with the turnstiles closer to the ground. So entering the ground should have been dealt with. Indeed, since the tragedy, Hillsborough has been selected to host an FA Cup Semi-final (5/4/1992), an FA Cup Semi-final replay (2/4/1997), a League Cup Final Replay (16/4/1997), the Euro ’96 finals and Premier League games for 9 years. Crowds have often been in the upper 30 thousands and on occasion, over 40,000. To my knowledge, there have not been any serious safety breaches in that period. I do appreciate that, following such a tragedy, authorities will wish to be extremely careful that safety is paramount at the club but to impose such draconian and questionable measures so suddenly when nothing else has changed seems to be completely unjustifiable. 2 2 I have been attending football matches as Hillsborough since 1955 and from 1961, when the North Stand was built, our family has held season tickets in the North Stand. I have always entered and left the ground via Leppings Lane and have never experienced any “egress” issues other than recently (see points below). 3 3 Dealing with the behaviour of small sections of a crowd who seem to be disruptive is a related but separate topic. It is quite noticeable that, in recent years, the police have become more and more aggressive towards spectators attending football matches, in some cases almost challenging people going to the game which has made me, now in my 70s, feel increasingly uncomfortable. Around 5 years ago, after the game had finished, they also started putting a human barrier of police across the entrance to the Leppings Lane concourse and again further up Leppings Lane, dramatically reducing the flow of spectators as they leave the ground and thereby creating an egress issue. This adversarial approach has not helped the police to have the respect of the vast majority of the spectators and has actually made egress from matches much more difficult. Football always attracts some fighting between a small minority and the police need to deal with this but, just like in 1989, the adopted approach seems that dealing with trouble makers is still the main focus of the policing. I have to assume that the changes and the approach of police officers is part of a management strategy and not determined by individual officers. 4 4 I was at the football match against Sheffield United on 4/3/2019 and entered and left the ground via Leppings Lane. Even on entering the ground, the police were in their most antagonistic mood ever and it was not pleasant. When we came out of the ground, the police almost blocked our way out. Some minor fighting started and the police appeared to over-react so rather than containing the situation it made it much worse. I made a hasty exit as the police were behaving like commandoes. The issue that day was not about how many people the concourse could hold or how quickly the crowd could disperse. It is whether the tactics of the police deliberately to restrict the size of the concourse and deliberately to reduce the rate spectators could leave by having rows of police restricting the exits and by the adoption of an over aggressive attitude was the correct approach or whether such policies should be changed. 5 The report by the University does not appear to be dealing with what actually happened on that day or addressing a problem which exists. The management of the crowd after the match was the subject of complaints from both football clubs and from supporter groups from both clubs. It would appear that the primary objective of the report is to prove that the fault lies entirely with the design of Hillsborough stadium and not with the police. In my opinion, the theory applied in the report is substantially flawed and if it were applied to all the football grounds in the Premier League and Football Championship, many grounds would be found wanting including Bramall Lane in Sheffield. The report totally ignores three critical points relevant to the theories applied:- a. In the past 3 years, a barrier has been erected in the concourse area at Leppings Lane to separate the home and away supporters. This has reduced the people capacity in the concourse. b. The police in the past 5 years or so have adopted an approach of almost barricading the exit from the concourse to Leppings Lane using officers and again have done the same towards the top of Leppings Lane close to the junction with Catch Bar Lane. This has seriously reduced the egress flow rate from the ground, in effect deliberately backing up people into the concourse area. c. The aggressive approach of police officers which is likely to be encouraging an aggressive response from sections of the crowd coming out of the stadium. 6 6 The recent decision to prevent any supporters from the home club entering or leaving the ground via Leppings Lane has the potential to create safety issues which were not previously present. The North Stand in particular was designed for entry and exit from both sides of the structure not just onto Penistone Road. As the Manchester report advises, further analysis was recommended before summary action was taken. 7 7 The effect on crowd numbers in the North Stand, a structure designed to hold 10,000 but with a current capacity of 9,255 following modifications to improve the width of gangways and provision of a disabled area is that it is now being restricted to well below the current capacity. This is to a football stand which many consider to be an absolute icon of cantilever design and the only football stand still in use to feature in Pevsner’s Buildings of England. As a user of the stand ever since it was built, I have never seen any issues with crowd safety in this stand although the decision to restrict access to one side is now creating a risk. 8 8 The application of the new prohibition order appears to be quite ridiculous when applied at recent games against Luton (20th August 2019) and QPR (31 August 2019) when the number of visiting spectators was low. At the game on 31st August, there was a crowd of 23,446 (less than 60% of the ground capacity) with no more than 700 from the visiting team. On the 20th August, a crowd of 23,353 included even less away supporters. But at both these games, nearly everyone had to leave the ground via Penistone Road after the game although the home and away supporters then mixed together as they made their various journeys home. It has also been noticeable that there have been significantly less police on duty outside the ground and I wonder if cost saving is what is actually driving the new policy? I believe the decisions taken based on the report are seriously flawed and should be immediately re-considered. As pointed out above, the report misses key policies adopted by the police which have seriously affected the used of the Leppings Lane concourse area and egress rates. As also pointed out above, if the theory used in the report were to be applied to all football clubs in the same way as Sheffield Wednesday, then major changes to their use would have to be made including Bramall Lane. And yet this theory is only being applied to one club. I would suggest that the following ideas are discussed in detail:- A A That the current restrictions are abandoned except for matches where the away supporters are expected to exceed a certain number. Applying a permanent restriction to the number of away supporters may be part of the discussion. B B That matches with large crowds and large numbers of away supporters are not played in the hours of darkness. That these “major” matches and “derbies” are ideally played early in the day, either at 3.00 or potentially earlier and that consideration is given to the restriction of alcohol sales in the local area. C C That the police abandon their policy of blocking the roads with officers thereby accelerating the movement of the crowd and the egress rates from the stadium. C D That the police adopt a much more community approach to the vast majority of spectators at football matches while at the same time identifying and dealing with the small known groups of trouble makers. E E That the authorities and SAG work closely together to find better ways of managing the stadium and safety rather than what currently appears to be an extremely adversarial atmosphere between the club the City Council and the Sag. On a final point, I find it a huge disappointment that the City of Sheffield does not celebrate the unique role of the City in the history of world football. We have the oldest club in the world (Sheffield FC), the second oldest club (Hallam FC), the oldest ground in the world (Sandygate), the oldest league ground in the world (Bramall Lane) and the 4th oldest club in the Football League(Sheffield Wednesday). AND Sheffield was the home for the first set of standard written rules for the game. We should have a national football museum and aim to become a destination for tourists from across the world. And issues between clubs and authorities in Sheffield should not be played out in the public eye and media. As the world City of Football, this should all be sorted out without the public or supporters knowing about it. I welcome your comments. Yours Sincerely, Copies to:- Julie Dore – Leader of Sheffield Council Dejphon Chansiri – Chairman Sheffield Wednesday Stephen Watson – Chief Constable South Yorkshire Police Clive Betts MP Angela Smith MP Dr. Alan Billings – South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner
  4. I wrote a 4 page letter today to John Mothersole and copied to Julie Dore, Dejphon Chansiri, Alan Billings, Stephen Watson, Angela Smith and Clive Betts. Similar to Clive Betts letter but with more detail. Let’s see if there is any useful reply.
  5. I have sent a 4 page letter today to the Council (John Mothersole) copied to Julie Dore, Stephen Watson, Alan Billings, Clive Betts, Angela Smith and Dejphon Chansiri. It’s on the same lines as Clive Betts’ letter. Well said Jon Coulby my friend. Lets see if there is any reply.
  6. Guess this topic is tongue in cheek. I wouldn’t touch the food on sale with a disinfected barge pole.
  7. I also used to stand at Leppings Lane with my Dad. He bought two debentures as part of the funding of the new stand and two season tickets, one each. With the exception of a few years when I was working and living in London, our family has had season tickets there ever since. As previously stated, the stand was designed for 10,000 with entry and exit two ways. In all that time, always entering and leaving via Leppings Lane, I have never observed an “ egress” problem; however, in recent years, the police line across the entrance to the road and across the road plus the barrier dividing home and away supporters has seriously reduced the capacity of the concourse and also the rate of leaving or “egress”. The tactics have been deliberately to keep the people squashed up in the concourse!!! You couldn’t make it up!
  8. Just back from a week in London and writing to Mr Mothersole with copies to DC, Billings, and MPs Smith and Betts. Want to refer to the report written for SYP but it appears it has now been taken down as the link no longer works. Anyone got an active link or a PDF copy? Thanks
  9. No wonder we have all this betting culture including sponsorship of football clubs. This thread is nothing to do with who should be the next manager. It is all about who is “ lumping on” to try and win at the betting shop. May the Lord help us from what the modern game has become.
  10. I will write to Hugh Mothersole. What is happening is totally unacceptable. The complaints about the Sheffield Derby were all about the police failing to do their job properly. We end up with a report which concludes that the Leppings Lane concourse is not big enough. That was never the problem and the concourse is much bigger than most Premier and Championship clubs. Then we receive a prohibition order preventing customers entering and leaving the North Stand via Leppings Lane. That creates a safety problem which did not exist so the capacity is reduced to around the number of season tickets held. And now now we are blamed for the number of people coming out at Penistone Rd. Everyone is clearly terrified that any sort of incident will happen again. BUT 1 This is nothing to do with what happened in 1989 and two FA Cup semi finals, one League Cup final replay, Euro 96 and 10 years of Premier League matches have been played there since. There is now seating all round and no fences to the pitch. 2 This is nothing to do with any trouble at the 2019 Sheffield Derby 3 If the Manchester report was applied to other clubs as at Hillsborough,it would unnecessarily change football in the UK and other events for ever. 4 In 59 years of sitting in the North during which the capacity for most of the time was 10,000, there has NEVER been an “egress” problem. 5 It’s a fact of football life that, however you organise things, fans will need to pass each other just as we did with Barnsley fans on Vere Rd. The police have the job of controlling trouble makers outside the ground while keeping others safe.
  11. It has to be said that we don’t seem to be treated in the same way as the other team and their ground. For what objective reason could that be?
  12. As everyone on here will probably know, we used to play in the city including at Bramall Lane. The move to Hillsborough was a move to an out of city greenfield site and the houses at such as Vere Rd are there because the club sold some of the land for housing. This was to add to the finance they raised through making Wednesday a limited company and selling shares. There are not many places within the quoted existing walking distance available. Meadowhall is far from ideal and it would be unthinkable to be in Rotherham. Wherever we move to would need good transport routes which rules out many places. If the land down Parkside Rd and the river were included, there is land at Hillsborough to “do a Tottenham” and re-build completely there. The limiting factor is the terrace houses. To build any stadium with a capacity of say 45k seats is always going to be very expensive. It’s in a different scale compared to those at Rotherham, Doncaster and Chesterfield. And then the challenge of where to play for the 2 years or so of construction.
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