Even though the football fixture between Scotland and the Auld Enemy England at Ibrox Park in 1902 was the 31st meeting between the two teams, stadium-based mass spectator sport was still in its infancy. Crowd control was little more than volunteer stewards holding up signs to indicate that parts of the ground were full, while the police were on hand to crack a few heads if things got rowdy, as they quite often did.
Fate played a hand in proceedings as the venue for the fixture, an unofficial world championship, was decided by the toss of a coin. Celtic lost out, so it was the home of Glasgow Rangers that would host this prestigious event. By the time of the 15.45 kick-off a partisan crowd of around 70,000 had assembled in the ground. Singing, clapping and stamping their feet, they roared as the players took to the field.
The match had barely kicked off when disaster struck the West End Stand. The wooden structure gave way under the stress of the heaving masses, creating a giant hole through which people began to fall. Panic ensued as thousands who were near the hole began to flee the terrifying pit. They rushed towards ground level, crushing those on the lower tiers whose attention was fixed firmly on the game. It soon became a scene of carnage as people lay injured and dying with little chance of medical assistance.
It is perhaps indicative of the times that the match was halted for a mere 15 minutes to allow the wounded and the dead to be stretchered away before play resumed. That people should attend a sporting fixture and not come home alive was, however, something that shook the whole of Britain, and benefit matches across Glasgow’s sectarian divide were set up to support the bereaved families.
When did the Ibrox Stadium disaster happen: April 5 1902
Where did the Ibrox Stadium disaster happen: Ibrox stadium, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
What was the Ibrox Stadium’s disaster death toll: 25 dead 500 plus injured
You should know: In just over 100 years of its history Ibrox has witnessed almost 100 deaths. The words ‘ibrox’ and ‘disaster’ have all too often been synonymous, most recently in 1971 when 66 died after a stairwell gave way.