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How Ibrox incident played a major role in crowd safety awareness

Sat 02 January 2021 | 7:48

A leading expert weighed down how the loss of 66 fans at Ibrox led to more awareness about crowd safety.

According to one of the world’s leading stadium safety experts, what brought British football into awareness about the risk of overcrowded stadiums was the loss of 66 fans at the Ibrox disaster in January 2nd, 1971. During this tragedy, their fans attempt to leave the stadium failed after a number of fans were crushed on the stairway.

Many criticized


for neglecting the safety of their passageway after several incidents occurred, which threated the fans lives. Dr. Keith Still, who is a visiting professor at the University of Suffolk, talked to

PA news agency

about the 1971 incident, saying:

“The incident led to not only a radical rethink in safety but also the development of the Safety at Sports Grounds Authority and people became much more aware of those kind of risks, with stairways inevitably a focus of much more attention.”

“So it does take a disaster of that kind of scale before people will make changes.”

“My work is always focused on can we anticipate what the next kind of disaster will be? Can we use the models and simulations of physics or the crash-test dummies with crowds to analyse what could go wrong and try to prevent similar incidents occurring?”

“Ibrox made a huge difference to our understanding of risk. It took a disaster of that scale for people to realise there was more involved.”

“It’s only been in the last 10 or 15 years that we have had the technology to run simulations. Before that, you could not put a crowd into the environment and knock them over to see what would happen.”

“You can test steel to destruction, you can test concrete to destruction – but you can’t test people to destruction.”

“So techniques have improved, the science of crowd dynamics has developed and people understand a lot more the levels of risk.”

The disaster occurred when Rangers fans returned to see their striker

Colin Stein

scoring against


, but their celebration did not last after one person’s fall on the stairs led to a painful sight. Later the stadium was redesigned by Willie Waddle on whom Dr. Still said:

“The rebuilt stadium, plus the Wheately report, the Safety at Sports Ground Act and just the understanding of crowd risks is the legacy to the people who died.”

“The fact we know the physics now and it bettered our understanding of those kind of risks.”

“Unfortunately it takes fatalities of this nature – Hillsborough, Bradford, Ibrox – for us to realise the issues.”

“It takes vision and imagination to realise that we need to make change rather than just hoping it might not happen again. That’s the complacency that is generally the route of most major incidents.”

“So someone like Willie Waddle and the people involved in that rebuild said, ‘We’ve got to change and we’ve got to change dramatically. We can’t put an extra couple of stewards in there. We need a radical rethink on this’.”

“That’s the philosophy that is required and it did the world a favour in creating this new guidance and understanding of the levels of crowd risk.”

“Most people think, ‘We’ll just change a little thing in case something goes wrong. We don’t want to make radical changes.’”

“Well that doesn’t work. What does work is understanding the hows and the physics of it and thinking we cannot allow this kind of design to continue.”

Still, who gives lectures about minimizing the risks to the crowds, added:

“There is a saying about history, which is we never learn from it. An incident happened at Celtic Park only as recently as 2018 at a Rangers and Celtic match when fans were crushing along that narrow aisle next to the cemetery.”

“These things are always potentially poised for mass fatalities and failure of nature.”

“I saw that incident and though, ‘How can we make these sort of mistakes’? This is stuff we teach regularly now. The courses I run on crowd safety issues are mandatory training for all English police commanders.”

“I’m from Scotland and we should be doing it universally. I work now in Australia and India now teaching the same sort of things, such as how do you stop these things from happening and what is the DNA of an accident.”

“If you understand causality and the chain of events that can lead to an accident – primarily high-density moving crowds on an uneven surface – then you understand that when you get to that high level of packing there is a significance risk to life and limb. End of.”

2021 marks the 50th anniversary of that tragic event.

source: SportMob