Sheffield Wednesday football club took "two to three years" to buy a standard first aid box, costing £25, for the first aid room at its Hillsborough ground, despite repeated requests from St John Ambulance in the period before 96 Liverpool supporters were killed there at an FA Cup semi-final in 1989.

A jury of seven women and four men at the new inquest into the disaster heard that the club finally bought the basic equipment for St John Ambulance in 1988.

At the time, St John Ambulance required £35 – less than the price of six tickets – to cover its expenses in sending volunteers to give first aid to supporters at Hillsborough matches, where the capacity was 50,000.

Fiona Barton QC, representing South Yorkshire police, said St John Ambulance "attended without payment for a number of years", and when the club did begin paying £600 per season to cover the costs, instead of making a donation above the required sum, it chose to give each of the volunteers a free meat pie at a match.

Questioning Graham Mackrell, Sheffield Wednesday's safety officer for Hillsborough from 1986 to 1999, Barton argued that the club had been "extremely tight" about spending its own money, rather than grants, on safety.

Regarding the St John Ambulance funding, she asked: "Does that not say something about the priority given to safety by the club?"

"No," Mackrell replied. He referred to figures from the Football Grounds Improvement Trust, which showed Sheffield Wednesday had received the second highest figure in grants for groundwork relating to safety of all Football League clubs.

Nick Brown, representing 74 families whose relatives were killed by crushing in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace at Hillsborough, accused Mackrell of failing to ensure the pens were safe, because no capacity had been calculated for each one.

Brown argued that without having calculated capacities, and without turnstiles dedicated to each pen so that the correct number of fans could be counted in, the club needed to have a system to prevent too many supporters being allowed in and the pens becoming dangerously overcrowded. Yet there was no written, agreed system for counting in supporters and monitoring overcrowding.

"If you had engaged brain about it, the system was deeply flawed, wasn't it?" Brown asked.

"In hindsight I believe you are right," Mackrell replied.

Brown challenged Mackrell that he had never done anything proactive with regard to safety during his time as the club's secretary and safety officer. "Is it correct you were completely asleep safety-wise?" Brown asked.

"No, that's not true," Mackrell replied. "I had a very close liaison with the police on a regular basis before matches."

Mackrell acknowledged that by law and the safety regime in force, the club itself was responsible for spectators' safety and for complying with the legally required safety certificate.

He said he deferred to the technical expertise of the club's consultant engineers, Eastwood & Partners, on issues such as whether the overall stated capacity of 10,100 for the Leppings Lane terrace was correct, despite it taking no account of work done after 1979 to reduce available space.

Mackrell also said that providing annual ground safety inspection reports to the local authority after 1987, which the club failed to do, was something for which he relied on Eastwoods.

Responding to questions from Pete Weatherby QC, representing 22 families whose relatives died at Hillsborough, about the decision to close side turnstiles in 1989, meaning 10,100 Liverpool supporters had to enter through just seven turnstiles, Mackrell said that was a police decision.

Asked whether signs in the Leppings Lane terrace to tell supporters where to go were "manifestly inadequate", Mackrell said it was a system inherited when he joined the club, although he had discussed the signage with Eastwood.

"You are quick to point the finger at Dr Eastwood, aren't you?" Weatherby asked him.

"No, not at all, " Mackrell said, "only in relation to areas of his responsibility, and the process that was in place when joining the club."

Weatherby asked Mackrell: "Was there anything you did or failed to do that contributed to this disaster?"

"In hindsight I relied upon other people," Mackrell said.

"Pointing the finger again?" Weatherby asked.

"Not at all," he replied.

Mackrell said that when he joined Sheffield Wednesday in 1986 he had had no handover from the previous secretary, Richard Chester, no discussion with directors or the chairman, Bert McGee, about the role expected of him at the club, and was issued with no job description.

He said nobody at the club told him about a previous crushing incident on the Leppings Lane terrace at the 1981 FA Cup semi-final, in which Tottenham Hotspur supporters were injured, nor about the subsequent building of radial fences up the terrace to divide it into pens.

Mackrell said he had not looked at the club's safety certificate until approximately two months after he took over as the club's safety officer. "I had a copy of it," he said. "I wouldn't say I studied it intimately every day, but I had a copy of it."

The inquest in Warrington continues.