Ibrox Disaster: 1902 and 1971
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Ibrox Disaster: 1902 and 1971

Fortunately, sporting disasters are few and far between. Two of the worst football disasters in Scotland both happened at Ibrox park, the first in 1902 during a Scotland V England match, the second in 1971 during a Rangers V Celtic match. Here we will take a brief look at the story behind those two disasters.

Fortunately, sporting disasters are few and far between. Two of the worst football disasters in Scotland both happened at Ibrox park, the first in 1902 during a Scotland V England match, the second in 1971 during a Rangers V Celtic match. Here we will take a brief look at the story behind those two disasters.

The Ibrox Disaster 1902

The two teams Rangers and Celtic, collectively known as the Old Firm, have been ‘bitter’ rivals on the park throughout their history, but in the early days of Scottish football they also had a rivalry to have the best stadium.

In 1892, Ibrox park (home of Rangers) had been chosen to host the lucrative Scotland v England international match. With Celtic park having gone through major improvements, the next four Scotland V England matches (1894,1896, 1898 & 1900) were held at the home of Celtic. Ibrox park was restructured in 1899 and found itself selected as the home ground for the 1902 Scotland V England match. No one could have predicted what was to happen.

A crowd of 68,114 filled Ibrox to cheer on their team. As they watched the early moments of play, the wooden terracing in one rear section ‘gave-way’ and collapsed. A 25-yard square void opened up and fans were sent hurtling 50 feet towards the ground. A total of 26 people lost their lives in the fall, over 500 were injured. Many were saved because they had the fortune of falling on the bodies of those on the ground below.

(The Aftermath - Image via Wikipedia)

Unbelievably, the majority of the rest of the crowd were unaware of the tragic events that had occurred as the first half went on. It was only at half time that the players involved found out about the incident. The decision was made by the officials that the game must continue. They decided to play the second half so as to avoid an even worse scene. The match ended 1-1; it was soon declared to be an ‘unofficial’ international. The two countries met again the following month in Birmingham and played out a 2-2 draw.

The Ibrox Disaster 1971

The second Old Firm game of the 1970-71 season took place on January 2nd 1971. A crowd of nearly 80,000 packed into Ibrox for what promised to be an exciting match, no one could have predicted what was to happen.

At the time of the match, Celtic were 8 points clear of Rangers in the league race but both sets of fans were eager for their team to come out on top. The players themselves were also eager to come out on top. As such, play was frantic but neither team could break down the opposition defence as time moved on. With just 2 minutes on the clock, Bobby Lennox of Celtic hit a shot from 25 yards out, it bounced off the crossbar and landed at the feet of Jimmy Johnstone, who put the ball in the net and sent Celtic into the lead. As the Celtic fans celebrated, hundreds of Rangers fans headed for the exits – to them, the game was over, it wasn’t.

With only seconds remaining until the referee blew his whistle, Rangers won a free-kick out on the left side of the field. Davie Smith hit the free-kick towards the Celtic penalty area. Out of nowhere, Colin Stein got to the ball and equalised for Rangers. The score was now 1-1.

(Statue to commemorate the 1971 disaster - Image via Wikipedia)

The Rangers fans who had started to leave when they thought it was over, heard the cheers coming from the rest of the Rangers support. Some turned to go back up but were met by more and more fans coming down. Someone slipped and carnage ensued. A crush developed. Most of it happened on stairway 13, where the ‘crowd’ collapsed – some onlookers described it ‘as if they had fallen into a hole in the ground’. When the dust had settled on what was a tragic day for Scottish football a total of 66 fans were dead, many more were seriously injured.

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Comments (5)

That is a real tragic piece of football history. I've seen footage of a similar collapse and it's just hard to watch. Well written piece of Ibrox park's tragic history in football.

Great dicussion of these tragic events.

That was me commenting above.

very interesting

This is a well written piece, but not wholly accurate. The notion that fans turned back up the stairs, somehow leading to the horrible events that were to occur, was proven to be false by the disaster Inquiry.

The disaster happened several minutes after the final whistle had gone, and as you say began with someone slipping, but wasnt caused by people heading back up the stairs, although this misconception remains to this day

RIP 66 lost souls

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