Hillsborough turnstile operator told to get people in "as quickly as possible" even if they didn't have a ticket
Jul 15, 2014 13:26
By Amy Browne
Dr Gauntlet said it would have been 'completely obvious' to the club and police that people were being let in without tickets
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A former turnstile operator at Hillsborough told the inquests he was instructed to get people into the ground “as quickly as possible” whether they had a ticket or not.
Dr James Trevor Gauntlet worked at Sheffield Wednesday part time from 1979 and 1985 and saw injuries caused by crushing at the 1981 FA Cup semi-final between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
He said the police thought the most important thing was to get people into the ground as fast as possible, but he knew this could have consequences for those inside.
At the FA Cup semi-final in 1980, between Arsenal and Liverpool, Dr Gauntlet said a police officer told him to admit anyone who arrived at the turnstile, whether or not they had a ticket. He was told police officers would carry out the job of checking the tickets outside.
He added: “We were told our role was to get people into the ground as quickly as possible. We were under the instructions of the police and they were – and this is implied I think – taking responsibility for any crowding or overcrowding.”
The same happened at the 1981 Fa Cup semi-final. He said: “We were explicitly told in 1981 by Basil Jones [unofficially the senior or head steward at the time], that it was our job to get people through the turnstiles, to avoid a crush in the turnstile, and if somebody arrived at the turnstile without a valid ticket, we should allow them in.”
Dr Gauntlet said that at both the 1980 and 1981 FA Cup semi-finals, there was a lot of pressure from outside the turnstiles.
He said at times it became difficult for the turnstile to rotate because the person who was standing behind the one being let through, was in the way.
Dr Gauntlet said on each occasion, he probably let in between 700 and 800 people, of which 20 to 30 didn’t have a ticket and 60 to 70 had tickets for another part of the ground.
Dr Gauntlet said operators could let as many as 1,000 people in before a game and wanted to get as many in as possible because it showed they were working harder than everybody else.
He would see people squeeze through the turnstile together when it rotated after he’d received just one ticket.
Dr Gauntlet admitted he sometimes took money to let people in without tickets. He said he took about £70 in 1980 and about £100 in 1981. He was getting paid £10 to work a game and said his fellow turnstile operators did the same.
He said the cash he took off people going through the gates "went in your back pocket" and the club would have known it was happening.
When it was put to him that the money he took off fans as a “bonus” was stealing he said: “The club didn't want the money - the club just wanted the ticket stubs".
He said a perk of the job was being given a ticket for games, which they didn't need because they could watch the second half of the game for free anyway.
He said there were around 60 turnstile operators and double that number of stewards, who were selling tickets on. Dr Gauntlet agreed that the club knew full well this was happening and they were being sold on the black market or to touts.
He said his senior manager was aware of what the turnstiles operators were doing.
During questioning by Mark George QC, representing some of the families, Dr Gauntlet agreed that in theory there were 10,100 people with a ticket for Leppings Lane, and an extra 100 people going in who either didn’t have a ticket, or had a ticket for the wrong part of the ground.
He agreed with Mr George that this would have been "completely obvious" to the football club and the police, who would have had to have been "wilfully blind" to it.
He said: “They should have known.”