Ibrox Disaster should provide a sense of perspective about football – Brian Wilson

Among childhood memories, I associate New Year with exciting trips to Glasgow for Celtic-Rangers games. Whenever tickets could be secured, my father would take us to Celtic Park just as for many other games.

Workers clear the railings from stairway 13 at Ibrox Stadium after the disaster on January 2, 1971, in which 66 people died (Picture: Gordon Rule)
Workers clear the railings from stairway 13 at Ibrox Stadium after the disaster on January 2, 1971, in which 66 people died (Picture: Gordon Rule)

The word “danger” did not occur. We lived in Dunoon and getting to the game and back was a tight fit – the ferry to Gourock, a train to Glasgow, leaving shortly before the final whistle to walk back to Central Station and the 5.20 train which would connect with the last ferry.

In retrospect, it was pretty astonishing. Celtic Park in these days crammed in over 80,000 souls. At any big game, movement of the crowd was like a tide of humanity. It relied entirely on self-policing with children protected even when our feet barely touched the ground. Somehow, it worked and few thought anything of it.

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On this day 1971: Ibrox Disaster kills 66 fans

When the New Year fixture was at Ibrox, we didn’t go, probably because there was no chance of tickets. But of course, many of my Rangers-supporting contemporaries made the same journey, same ferry, same train.

On January 2, 1971, one of them, George Irwin, did not come back. A boy who left home to see a football match died, with 65 others, in the Ibrox Disaster. The self-policing was overwhelmed and the crush of the crowd did what it had always been capable of.

While there were historic issues with Stairway 13, the truth was the same could have happened at any stadium which accommodated huge crowds. For the grimmest of reasons, Scotland was at the forefront of stadium safety reforms, based on recommendations from the Wheatley inquiry.

There are still lessons to be learned – a sense of perspective among them – while football can never forget that safety is its own highest obligation.

John Greig and his friend and former Old Firm rival, the late Celtic captain Billy McNeill, lay a wreath in 2011 in memory of those killed in the Ibrox Disaster (Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

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