On The Anniversary Of The First Ibrox Stadium Disaster, Football’s Sombre Roll Call…

Martin Cloake

5th, April 2016



A sombre note today on the anniversary of the first major disaster in football. On 5th April 1902, at Ibrox Park in Glasgow, a section of the stand collapsed during a match, killing 26 people and injuring 517 more.

Scotland were playing England in a British Home Championship match at the time when, 51 minutes in, the terracing on the newly-built West Tribune Stand caved in sent hundreds of fans plummeting over 40 feet to the ground. It was and is widely regarded as the first fatal stadium disaster in British football.

Over the years, across the globe, there has unfortunately been plenty of further tragedy witnessed at football stadiums – though, as we’re talking about the world’s most popular spectator sport, perhaps it’s no surprise.

Soccer - Friendly - Scotland v England

A view of the terracing at Ibrox after it collapsed, causing the deaths of 26 people, 1902

Sadly, football boasts a sombre roll call of similar stadium disasters and loss of life, with Ibrox suffering more than its fair share.

In 1946, at Burnden Park, Bolton, a wall collapsed during a cup tie between Wanderers and Stoke City, killing 33 and injuring 500.

In 1971, at Ibrox again, 66 people died in a crush at the end of an Old Firm game caused by fans returning into the stadium after hearing an equaliser.

In 1985, during a match at Bradford’s Valley Parade ground, a huge fire began in the debris that had been allowed to collect beneath the stands. 56 supporters died.

And, of course, in 1989, 96 fans were killed and more than 200 injured in Britain’s worst sports disaster, at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough. Investigations into exactly what happened and why continue to this day.

Soccer - Valley Parade Fire - Memorial Service - Bradford

A cross made from charred timbers provides the backdrop to a memorial service at Bradford City’s Valley Parade ground (Photo: PA)

It’s not just Britain that has suffered such devastating events. In 1955, six fans died when a crowd of 70,000 tried to cram into a 48,000-capacity stadium in Santiago, Chile, for the finals of an international tournament.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1968, 74 fans died at a derby between Boca Juniors and River Plate in a crush caused by fans escaping burning newspaper being thrown down from an upper tier.

In Cairo in 1971, 48 died and 50 were injured when crowds broke down barriers and a wall to get into a game at Zamelek’s stadium.


The immediate aftermath of the Luhzniki Stadium disaster, 1982

However, the highest suspected death toll came in 1982 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

Once again precipitated by fans returning to the ground after hearing an equaliser, the ensuing crush at the UEFA cup tie between Spartak Moscow and Dutch side Haarlem is now thought to be 340. Soviet authorities originally claimed the toll was 66.

Then came Heysel.

Africa too has suffered a series of tragedies relatively recently. In 1996 in Lusaka, Zambia, nine died and 78 were injured in a stampede following Zambia’s victory over Sudan.

In 1997 in Lagos, Nigeria, five died and a dozen were injured after a game between Nigeria and Egypt, and three years later in Monrovia, Liberia, three were killed and many others injured in a crush at a game between Liberia and Chad.

In 2001, at least 43 people died and 155 were injured after a league game between Kaiser Chiefs and Orland Pirates devolved into a chaotic riot.

February 2012 saw a mass riot break out at the Port Said stadium in Egypt when hundreds of El Masry fans stormed the pitch and attacked El Ahly fans with an entire arsenal of weapons. 74 died and over 500 were injured. As a result, the Egyptian FA shut down the domestic league for two years.


Fans struggle to escape tear gas fired into the crowd at the Estadio Nacional

However, it is the Peruvian capital of Lima that witnessed what is officially recorded by FIFA as the worst stadium disaster in the history of association football, given that the precise Luzhniki toll is still disputed.

Back in 1964, during a game between Peru and Argentina, some 328 supporters were crushed to death in the enclosed stairwells of the Estadio Nacional after a stampede was sparked by tear gas being fired into the stands to quell crowd unrest after a late disallowed goal. Over 500 more fans were left with serious injuries.

You can follow Martin Cloake on Twitter at @MartinCloake and find more about his books and writing at www.martincloake.com

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  1. usrick says:

    The dark and frightening side of the world’s best and most popular sport.

  2. Wiko says:

    56 people died in the Bradford fire, not 55.

  3. F.K. van der Mark says:

    I doubt that that picture is of the Luzhniki disaster. That took place almost entirely near the entrance to the stands. Not on the stands itself. Moreover there aren’t any real pictures of it as the Soviet police tried to cover it up. I guess the picture is from the Heysel disaster.

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