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66 victims of Ibrox stadium disaster remembered in Glasgow 49 years on

John Greig lays a tribute
John Greig lays a tribute
Broken barriers at the stadium
Late Belfast Telegraph sport editor Malcolm Brodie
A newspaper report of the tragedy

By Staff Reporter

Rangers Football Club held a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the 49th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster.

Sixty-six fans died and another 200 were injured in a crush on a stairway after a derby match against Celtic on January 2, 1971.

The incident happened just after the game had finished 1-1 following two goals in the final two minutes from the visitors' Jimmy Johnstone and then Colin Stein's equaliser.

As a crowd of 80,000 fans filtered out on to the surrounding streets, many fell coming down stairs on a passageway at the Copland Road end of the ground.

Steel barriers crumpled under the weight of so many people, leading to the horrific consequences.

Initial reports suggested the tragedy had been caused by supporters rushing back up Stairway 13 when the goal was scored and then being crushed by people leaving and the barriers giving way.

A later public inquiry, however, dismissed this hypothesis and concluded deaths were the result of fans pouring down the stairway in the same direction and being crushed.

It was the biggest single loss of life at a Scottish football match and it remains the darkest day in the club's history.

Rangers and its supporters have worked tirelessly over the years to ensure those who died are never forgotten through various tributes and memorials.

Club representatives took part in the ceremony at the Ibrox disaster memorial plinth on Edmiston Drive yesterday. Honorary president John Greig placed a wreath at the foot of the statue on behalf of the club before a minute's silence was observed.

Rev Stuart McQuarrie carried out a short service prior to the minute's silence.

The disaster led to a huge development at Ibrox spearheaded by then Rangers manager Willie Waddell, who visited Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion for guidance and ideas. Ibrox was subsequently converted into an all-seater stadium and awarded the Uefa five star status. Stairway 13 was no more.

The late Belfast Telegraph sport editor Malcolm Brodie was among the few members of the Press that were in the ground as the disaster unfolded.

A newspaper strike at the time in the city meant that there was not as big a media contingent in the stadium. It was while Malcolm was dictating his copy over the phone he noticed the crowd still in the ground. He asked police nearby what had happened and was told of the crush.

"Never will I forget that eerie scene," he later recalled.

"A chilling fog swept across the stadium which half an hour earlier had been a vibrant, passionate cauldron.

"Now the roar of the crowd was replaced by the wail of ambulance and police sirens.

"From touchline to goalposts, bodies covered in ghostly white sheets had been placed before departure for mortuary identification.

"Gradually over the next hour the horror of what had happened emerged.

"Thousands had left the stadium unaware of what had unfolded, and but for that telephone request I could have been one of them."

Brodie added: "The two managers, Jock Stein (Celtic) and Willie Waddell (Rangers), both now deceased, walked together towards the pitch through the fog to the scene. Tears were in the eyes and emotion filled the bodies of these hard-bitten men."

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