On this day 1971: Ibrox Disaster kills 66 fans

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The Old Firm was played in a good atmosphere on this day in 1971 as the festive holidays maintained cheer on the south side of Glasgow, despite the cold and fog of the afternoon.

But the thrill of the final whistle of the 1-1 derby following a late goal from Rangers’ Colin Stein was quickly followed by tragedy.

Workmen clear the barricades from stairway 13 at Ibrox stadium, scene of the tragedy that killed 66 football fans on January 2 1971. PIC: TSPL.

Workmen clear the barricades from stairway 13 at Ibrox stadium, scene of the tragedy that killed 66 football fans on January 2 1971. PIC: TSPL.

A crush of supporters leaving by exit 13 led to the death of 66 fans, with children amongst those who never made it home from the game.

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Reporters noted how heavy steel barriers designed to manage the crowds had become mangled by the weight of people trying to leave the stadium.

One man who managed to struggle out of the crush told the BBC at the time: “I was making my way out of the stadium down the stairs when suddenly everything seemed to stop,” he said.

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“The lads at the back just kept coming forward down the stairs.

“I went down with the rest of the crowd, being pushed and pulled onto the ground.

“Everyone was struggling to get out, suffocating - it was essentially a fight for survival. After 10 or 15 minutes I was dragged out by a policeman and brought to hospital by ambulance.”

Steps were littered with shoes and fans flattened by the crush.

Football reporter Andrew Young, of the Glasgow Herald, reported at the time: “There was almost complete shocked silence at this stage.

“Occasionally we would hear the sounds of coins falling from the victims pockets as they were lifted away.”

The disaster had an impact on families across Scotland with the small Fife town of Markinch hit particularly hard by events.

The town was home to five of the youngest victims of the disaster. All were schoolboys who lived within a few hundred yards of each other.

Mason Phillips, 13, Peter Easton 13, Bryan Todd, 14, Richard Douglas Morrison 14, all of Park View and David Patton, 14 of Googe Street, were ardent football fans.

They played for the same football team and all attended Auchmuty Secondary School, Glenrothes. They had travelled in a Glenrothes Rangers supporters’ bus to the game.

An inquiry later discounted the initial version of events which suggested fans leaving the stadium had been attempting to go back up the stairway after the equaliser was scored.

It is now believed the crush was caused simply by the downward force of so many supporters leaving at the same time.

The momentum of the crowd meant that once people started to fall, there was no way of holding the mass of bodies back.

The disaster remains the worst in the history of Scottish football and is surpassed only by the Hillsborough tragedy in British football.

Irvine Smith QC presided over a civil damages trial into the Ibrox disaster and found that it “was due to the fault and negligence of the defenders, Rangers FC”.

The civil test case was raised at Glasgow Sheriff Court in May 1974 by the widow of one of the Ibrox victims, Charles Dougan.

The finding was agreed by all sides to be conclusive of all the other deaths in the disaster.