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Final statement published after Leeds United confront problems Newcastle United fans experienced

3 months ago

Back on Saturday 22 January, Leeds United lost 1-0 to Newcastle United

Following complaints from Newcastle United fans an official Leeds United statement said that ”The club acknowledges the complaints raised by some Newcastle United supporters regarding issues experienced entering Elland Road on Saturday.’

The Yorkshire club stating that they were going to do a full review before making any further comment.

To give an insight into the issues faced by Newcastle United fans on Saturday, this is part of Jamie Smith’s match report from the win over Leeds that he did for The Mag, which details what he experienced trying to get safely into Elland Road:

‘I was at the 2016 Championship match at Elland Road, which was the first time I realised away fans had been moved to the end of the John Charles stand, having been behind the goal in the Hunter stand for the duration of Leeds’ earlier spell in the Premier League. However, I don’t remember the situation for getting into the ground being as farcical or dangerous as the experience here.

Going through the gates and having tickets checked and bodies searched, made you feel like you were already in, so it was an unpleasant surprise to be herded into a queue of 3,000 people shoved into a claustrophobic space that involved turning 180 degrees past some metal barriers. Squiring forward allowed you to queue up some steps before attempting to scan your ticket in some antiquated ramshackle machines that failed to read it half of the time, resulting in a pointless conversation with an unhelpful steward while the queue behind swelled further and grew more angry as kick off time approached.

There were a couple of people around me with small kids and this must have been a terrifying situation to have them in, but I have to call out massive credit to everyone in the Newcastle crowd for the patience and respect shown, especially when people realised there were little uns involved. A surge from the back would have created a horrible situation and at a time when there are people taking ill in crowds seems to get a lot of attention, there would surely be a lot of hand wringing and solemn words from Leeds should something terrible happen, as opposed to doing something about it now when it’s obvious and avoidable. Start by fixing your Sinclair ZX 1970s ticket reader.’

Eight weeks later, there has been a conclusion to the review, a review which has involved NUST (Newcastle United Supporters Trust) and West Yorkshire Police, as well as Leeds United.

It is NUST who have put out this final statement, explaining to Newcastle United fans what has taken place and how Leeds United have reacted to the issues raised.

NUST STATEMENT – 19 March 2022:

Leeds United Away Investigation

‘The Newcastle United Supporters Trust has been working closely with Leeds United in the weeks following the 1-0 victory at Elland Road on the 22nd January 2022. Following these discussions, a report has been published regarding the incidents that took place outside, and inside the away section. The final report can be found on our website here.

After receiving approximately 125 reports in the days after the game, there was clear distress highlighted by those who were caught outside the away turnstiles in the build-up to, and after kick-off. Leeds United contacted us on the Monday following the game after being alerted to the serious concerns Newcastle United fans had for their health and safety. From these reports, Trust Vice Chair Thomas Concannon was able to provide Leeds with a detailed view of Newcastle fans in attendance that day and provided Leeds United with 10 of the most detailed reports for them to analyse.

Two meetings were held with Leeds United, with one meeting taking place with representation from the West Yorkshire Police and the Football Supporters’ Association. The Trust was able to ask questions about the incident that took place outside the turnstiles and was able to establish an understanding of what led to Newcastle fans being involved in a very crowded situation outside the away turnstiles, and then subsequently inside the away section.

We raised concerns around the operation of the turnstiles, which were the main cause of what was to follow, citing many fans informing us that tickets were not being read by the barcode reader. There were also reports of the barcode being ripped from the ticket due to the perforation line on the ticket, which Leeds acknowledged was a contributing factor to the incident. Leeds has acted on this immediately by removing the perforation line on the ticket to prevent the barcode from being separated from the main ticket. We will also be making the recommendation to Newcastle United that any future tickets with perforation lines should not be folded at the perforation line in order to fit them into the envelope before sending them out to supporters.

We raised concerns around communication with supporters, with supporters claiming very little information was given to them as to why the queues weren’t progressing and no prior warning that the gate would be opened to allow fans to access the stadium, which in itself caused problems. Supporter reports expressed a lot of disappointment at the communication from both Leeds United and the West Yorkshire Police. We are satisfied they have acknowledged these complaints and are seeking to improve this going forward.

Concerns with the layout of the queuing system, as well as the layout of the stadium inside, were also raised, and whilst immediately amending the stadium inside is an unreasonable ask, we are pleased Leeds United has acted immediately to improve the queuing system outside the away turnstiles.

We also questioned the lack of response from stewarding teams and police, with what many Newcastle fans have described as poor reaction times and struggling to make the situation any safer for fans involved. We urge that Leeds United, and clubs around the Premier League and beyond, plan for such eventualities and provide the correct training to stewards to handle difficult situations like this.

From the very first meeting, we praise Leeds United for taking this situation very seriously and are satisfied that steps are being taken to prevent any incidents like this from happening again to any set of supporters attending Elland Road. We are pleased to learn that following this game, Leeds United took immediate steps to prevent this from happening outside the away section again and that further fixtures with Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, and Norwich lead to no further such incidents.

We are also pleased the West Yorkshire Police have committed to improving their communication with supporters going forward, and will seek to prevent a build-up directly outside the turnstiles should any incident like this occur again.

We would like to place on record our thanks to Leeds United for treating Newcastle United fans with the respect they deserve following this incident and appreciate the seriousness in which they handled gathering evidence to create this report for your consumption. We are also happy to hear they have sought to liaise with supporter organisations of teams due to travel to Elland Road.

Newcastle fans were faced with a very difficult situation that caused a lot of stress and anger from those involved. Those in attendance were amongst our most hardcore away followers, with a lot of experience following Newcastle United away from home, both domestically and abroad. The feeling that this was one of the worst experiences to have come across was a common theme across many of the reports sent in.

We would like to thank Newcastle fans who sent reports in, especially in such detail which helped us form our presentation to Leeds United and the West Yorkshire Police. We can only hope going forward that an incident like this doesn’t occur again, and that lessons are learned, and continue to be learned to ensure the safety of supporters.’


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