The Hillsborough inquests have heard claims that turnstile operators took money to let people without tickets into the ground in the early 1980s. The hearing into the deaths of 96 people at the Sheffield Wednesday stadium in 1989 has been give evidence from a man who worked on previous FA Cup semi-final matches in 1980 and 1981. Dr James Gauntlett admitted he took money to let people in without tickets during the six years he worked for the club.
Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquests, asked him: "In these two years, 1980 and 1981, roughly how much if anything did you take to let people in without tickets?" Dr Gauntlett said: "It was about £70 when I was paid £10 to work a game in 1980; probably slightly over £100 in 1981." He agreed it had been a perk of the job and said his colleagues were doing the same. "It was not negotiated money, it was basically money that was offered by people going through the turnstile, because I had no choice. If they hadn't offered me the money, I would have had to let them through anyway." He added: "I did not ask anybody to bunk up in order to make extra money... There are other people who did things like negotiate."
The witness said he could be clicking the turnstile every two seconds or so towards kick-off. He told the court: "For a big game like this, then there was a certain amount of personal pride amongst the turnstile staff if you could get 1,000 people through your turnstile. "I probably lead through about 700-800 on each occasion, maybe up to a thousand. I can't remember the numbers, but 20 or 30 people went through my turnstile without tickets, and probably 60-70 on both occasions went through my turnstile with tickets for the wrong end of the ground." Mr Hough asked: "So collectively, 10% or a little more as a proportion of those you were letting in on those two matches either had no ticket or a ticket for the wrong area? "Yes," he replied.
Dr Gauntlett agreed that the capacity of the Leppings Lane terrace would almost inevitably be exceeded if everyone turned up and said it should have been "completely obvious" to Sheffield Wednesday and the police.
The court heard that turnstile operators working on the 1981 semi-final were explicitly told by boss Basil Jones to get people through the turnstiles to avoid a crush in the turnstiles. "If somebody arrived at the turnstile without a valid ticket, we should allow them in," the witness said. He said Mr Jones told them he did not expect to achieve a tally between ticket stubs and the number of rotations of turnstiles.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 whole thing was about more people through the turnstiles as quickly as possible."
Barrister Andrew Waters, representing Sheffield Wednesday, asked the witness more about taking money from people without tickets: "Being blunt that was stealing money wasn't it? It wasn't a bonus that you were allowed to keep?" The witness replied: "It was money that the club were not interested in. They only wanted the ticket stubs…. That probably came from Basil."