On this day in history : 2nd January 1971 – Disaster strikes at Ibrox Park at the end of an ‘Old Firm’ football match between the two Glaswegian giants – Rangers v Celtic…. Sixty-six spectators are crushed to death and over 200 are injured….
The match had looked as if it were going to be a 0-0 draw….when in the 89th minute Celtic scored – only for Rangers to equalise with only a few seconds of the game remaining…. The 80,000 strong crowd went wild….only tragedy was about to happen on the East terrace, at the Rangers end of the stadium….
As the massive crowd surged to exit the ground some fans stumbled on the steep steps of stairway 13…. Others around them, not realising what was happening, still moved forwards – and a crush developed….the steel barriers on the stairway crumpled and gave way….
Sixty-six people lost their lives – 31 of which were teenagers….five school friends from Fife, 4 of whom lived on the same street, were among them…. One woman, Margaret Ferguson, aged 18 died…. The youngest victim was Nigel Pickup, from Liverpool….he was just 9-years-old…. Over 200 further people were injured….
At the official inquiry, which followed the disaster, it was concluded that someone – possibly a child being carried on his father’s shoulders – fell…..causing a chain reaction….
This was the worse football disaster in British football history until the Hillsborough disaster in 1989…. However, it was not the only catastrophe to have happened at Ibrox Park (now Ibrox Stadium)…. Ten years previously two had died and 44 were injured on the very same stairway…. In 1902 old wooden terraces gave way under the weight of too many spectators….25 died and 587 were injured….
The 1971 incident prompted the UK government to look into safety at sports venues…. As for the Ibrox ground – it underwent a huge redevelopment program taking three years to complete…. Three quarters of the spectating area was replaced by all-seated stands….
In the immediate aftermath of the Ibrox disaster supporters on both sides were united in grief….and now every year those who lost their lives are remembered….