Home » Tournament in Focus » - Scottish Premiership » They went to a match and never came back (Part Five)

They went to a match and never came back (Part Five)

Continuing the series that looks at those thankfully rare times in football history when fans went to a football match but never made it home afterwards.

(For Part One click here; Part Two here; Part Three here; Part Four here.)

The Ibrox Stadium Disaster 1971

They saw that lightening never strikes twice. Unfortunately, the Ibrox ground, home of Glasgow Rangers, disproved this aphorism in 1971, some 69 years later since it had been the venue for the first major stadium tragedy in the modern era of football.

On that occasion, 26 people died when a makeshift stand collapsed during a Scotland England international.

Unfortunately the death toll second time round was much higher.

What made the events of January 1971 worse was that there had been warnings as to what was to occur. In 1961, two people were killed in a crush on the stairway adjacent to passageway 13, known colloquially as Stairway 13, and two years later, warnings were issued about the safety of the stairway.

In 1967, eight fans were injured leaving the stadium and, two years later, 26 more were injured trying to leave the stairway after a match.

Despite this, Rangers refused to bring in safety experts to discuss the problems, and that failure was to have dire consequences.

In January 1971 Rangers were playing an Old Firm derby against biter local rivals Celtic.  On the stroke of full-time Celtic took the lead, and scores of disgruntled home fans left early, one or two people accidentally slipped. At the time Stairway 13 was packed with supporters, and, as waves of people pushed forward, they could not see that others had fallen.

In the terrible crush that ensued, 66 people lost their lives, and hundreds more were injured. Most of the deaths that occurred were due to compressive asphyxia – a lack of oxygen – with bodies stacked up to six feet deep in the area. Everyone who died was under 50 years old.   

It was the worst British sporting disaster at the time.

One man to witness the tragedy was Kenny Dalglish, then a Celtic player. When he later moved south to Liverpool, he was to be involved in two more tragedies involving British football fans – at Heysel and Hillsborough.

An urban myth that the crush was caused by Rangers fans attempting to turn back after their side scored a late equaliser was disproved by the inquest, which proved that all the victims were facing the same way.

In the aftermath, the UK government looked into safety at all sports grounds, , and the Ibrox stadium was redeveloped.

A Glasgow Sheriff’s Court found that the club were guilty of the deaths of all the victims, and civil damages were awarded against them.

For years just a small plaque marked the pot of the tragedy, but in 2001, 30 years after it occurred, a larger monument was unveiled.

Leave a Reply