Sixty-six Rangers’ fans died and another 145 were injured in the Ibrox Disaster after the New Year’s Day Old Firm game ended in a 1-1 draw. Rangers’ equaliser came at the end of a game watched by 80 000 supporters. Fans on the way out of the ground on Stairway 13 heard the crowd roaring and turned back to be met by a surge of jubilant supporters leaving the ground. Barriers gave way in the resulting crush. Thirty-three of the sixty-six dead were teenagers. Five of them teenage school friends from the town of Malkinch in Fife. One of the victims was a girl, eighteen-year-old Margaret Ferguson. The youngest was Nigel Patrick Pickup of Liverpool, age nine.
Mist was falling and ambulances, police and fire engines were delayed by the crowd leaving the stadium, unaware of the tragedy. Eye-witness accounts such as eighteen-year-old, First-Aid assistant, Ian Holm told us he wasn’t even sure what happened and he was inside the stadium.
Spectators helped police carry victims onto the pitch and pavilion. A general appeal went out for first aiders. Fifty-three bodies, still in their club’s colours, were laid out on the pitch.
In the aftermath, Lord Provost Sir Donald Liddle wept at a press conference. He declared, ‘It is quite clear a number died of suffocation’.
This wasn’t the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989 with ninety-six deaths and 766 injured were the police and ambulance services were culpable.
Kenny Dalglish, brought up a Rangers’ supporter, but part of the Jock Stein’s Quality Street gang of youthful player replacing the ageing Lisbon Lions, was in the stand that day. He was also a player-manager in the Heysel disaster in 1985 and manager of Liverpool at Hillsborough
A Rangers’ director did use the tactic of victim blaming, something Dalglish as player and manager never did. Stairway 13 ‘was an accident waiting to happen’ concluded one spectator at the game, but no worse than you’d see at Falkirk or Tannadice.
2 died in a crush in Stairway 13 in 1961, 70 fans injured; in 1967, 11 injured; 1969, 30 injured.
Rangers were cleared of culpability in a public enquiry. Sheriff James Irvine Smith was said to have lost friends when he concluded: ‘The said accident was due to the fault and negligence’ of Rangers F.C. and paid damages to a victim. Sixty other civil cases were brought and settled by the club.