Ibrox Stadium

Ibrox Stadium is a renowned football stadium located on the southern banks of the River Clyde, situated in the Ibrox area of Glasgow, Scotland. This impressive facility serves as the home stadium of the prestigious Rangers Football Club and boasts an all-seated capacity of 50,817, making it the third largest football stadium in Scotland. Originally named Ibrox Park, the stadium has undergone several significant renovations over the years, including the replacement of vast earthen terraces with a main stand in 1928 and the reconstruction of the stadium following a tragic disaster in 1971. Notably, Ibrox Stadium has hosted the Scotland national football team on several occasions and has also played host to three Scottish Cup Finals. In addition to its illustrious sporting history, the stadium has also served as an impressive concert venue.

In May 1872, Rangers Football Club played their inaugural match on Glasgow Green before proceeding to play their home games on public pitches across Glasgow. In 1875, the club established their first regular home ground at Burnbank, which was followed by a move to the Clydesdale cricket ground in Kinning Park a year later. Although the ground was improved to accommodate 7,000 spectators, it was not owned by Rangers. In February 1887, after the landlords hinted their intention to redevelop the site, Rangers left the ground. Subsequently, the club shared Cathkin Park with Third Lanark for the remaining 1886-87 season.

Later in 1887, Rangers moved to the Ibrox area, where they played their first game on a site situated immediately east of the present stadium. On 20 August 1887, Rangers played their inaugural match at the newly established Ibrox Park, suffering an 8-1 defeat against English side Preston North End in front of a capacity crowd exceeding 15,000 spectators. However, the match had to be abandoned after 70 minutes due to a pitch invasion. Although the first Ibrox Park was a success in the short term, hosting three Scotland international matches and the 1890 Scottish Cup Final, the newly constructed Celtic Park, which opened in 1892, was considered more advanced. In response, Rangers raised funds to construct a new stadium, forming a limited company. The final match at the old ground was played on 9 December 1899, and the new Ibrox Park was officially opened with a 3-1 victory over Hearts on 30 December of the same year.

Ibrox Park, which was the name of the stadium between 1899 and 1997, was vastly different from the Ibrox Stadium of today. It adhered to the standard design of Scottish stadiums during its time, featuring an oval track surrounding the pitch, a pavilion, and a single stand along one side, with a seating capacity of 40,000. The three prominent football grounds in Glasgow at the time, namely Celtic Park, Hampden Park, and Ibrox, vied for the hosting rights of Scottish Cup Finals and Scotland matches, which could bring in up to £1,000 in revenue for the host club. To enhance their chances of securing this revenue, Rangers constructed an enormous terracing, capable of accommodating 36,000 people, behind the western goalmouth. This terracing was created by bolting wooden planks onto an iron framework designed by Archibald Leitch. A comparable wooden terracing was built on the eastern end, resulting in a total capacity of 75,000.

The structure was authorized by the Govan Burgh Surveyor in March 1902, but there were reports in the newspapers that it was unstable. On April 5th, 1902, a crowd of 68,114 gathered for a Scotland vs. England match. Shortly after kick-off, one section of the terracing "collapsed like a trapdoor," creating a 20-square-yard gap that caused around 125 people to fall 50 feet to the ground below the terracing. Fortunately, most people survived because they fell on top of others, but 25 people died. 517 others were injured, some as a result of being crushed in the panic caused by the collapse.

Most people in the stadium were unaware that the first Ibrox disaster had occurred. Even after the incident, people re-occupied the damaged area, despite the danger of further collapse. A definitive reason for the disaster was not agreed upon, partly because there was no public inquiry. Some experts attributed it to the quality of wood, and the supplier was charged with culpable homicide but acquitted. The design was also cited as a possible cause, as wooden structures of that size were not generally trusted. Rangers removed the wooden terraces, reducing capacity to 25,000, but the criticism of the design did not deter Rangers from hiring Leitch for future projects. He designed an expansion of Ibrox to a 63,000 capacity by 1910, utilizing earth slopes. At this point, the city of Glasgow boasted the three largest purpose-built football grounds in the world.

The next major redevelopment occurred in 1928, following Rangers' first double. A new Main Stand, situated on the south side of the ground, was unveiled on January 1st, 1929. The Main Stand, featuring Leitch's recognizable criss-cross balcony and a red-brick facade, seated 10,000 people and provided standing accommodation in an enclosure. In 2005, Simon Inglis, a writer on football stadia, praised the Main Stand as Leitch's "greatest work," which remains "resplendent today in its red brick glory under a modern mantle of glass and steel." The Main Stand's architectural importance was confirmed when it was designated a Category B listed building in 1987. The original seats in the Main Stand were made of cast iron and oak, and one was sold at an auction in 2011 for £1,080.

During the 1930s, the terracing continued to be banked higher. On January 2nd, 1939, the Old Firm game against Celtic attracted a crowd of 118,567, a British record attendance for any league match. At that point, Ibrox was the second.

In December 1953, floodlights were first introduced at Ibrox for a friendly match against Arsenal, with the first floodlit Scottish league match taking place there in March 1956. During the 1960s, covers were added over the north and east terracing, reducing the capacity of the stadium to around 80,000 due to safety regulations, despite no structural changes being made.

Before its complete overhaul and renaming in 1997, Ibrox Park had the worst fan safety record in Britain. The stadium suffered a number of incidents, including the collapse of a barrier on Stairway 13, which led to a crush and the death of two fans in September 1961. This stairway was popular due to its proximity to Copland Road subway station and parking areas for Rangers supporters' coaches, but it was overcrowded and steep, leading to further injuries in crushes in 1967 and 1969. In 1968, the main stand was hit by fire, and another fire destroyed over 200 seats behind the directors' box just seven months later.

The worst disaster to hit football in Britain to that point occurred on 2 January 1971, after an Old Firm match, when 66 people died due to asphyxiation caused by another crush on Stairway 13. The tragedy exposed the fact that there were no established safety standards in place at the time, nor any means of enforcing them. Rangers were found to be complacent in their administration and were criticized for their ineptitude in handling the incidents in the 1960s.

In the aftermath, the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds was published in 1973, and legislation was passed with the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975, reducing Ibrox's capacity to 65,000. Rangers temporarily installed benches in the North Stand, which was renamed the Centenary Stand.

The 1971 Ibrox disaster proved to be a catalyst for Rangers to construct a modern, safe stadium. After visiting modern grounds in West Germany during the 1974 World Cup, Willie Waddell recognized that steep terracing and exits, particularly Stairway 13, had to be replaced. The club made radical plans for a stadium overhaul, and these plans were published by architects Miller Partnership in November 1977. The plans were modelled on Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion, and involved a complete reshaping of Ibrox, with the old bowl-shaped terracing to be replaced by three new all-seated structures. The only remaining structure would be the old Main Stand, with its enclosure providing the only standing room in the stadium.

Although later events such as the Hillsborough disaster and the subsequent Taylor Report vindicated this plan, Rangers were taking a significant financial risk. The entire plan was estimated to cost £6 million, which was a sum no other club could have afforded within a short period of time. The development was funded by the Rangers football pools operation, which was the largest club-based scheme in Britain. The first phase of the plan, which began in 1978, involved the removal of the east terracing and its replacement with the Copland Road stand. A year later, the same process was repeated on the west side of the stadium, resulting in two identical stands, each holding 7,500 seats. The redevelopment was completed in 1981 with the replacement of the Centenary Stand by the 10,300 capacity Govan Stand.

The new Ibrox Stadium had a capacity of 44,000 and was opened with an Old Firm game on 19 September 1981. However, by this time, the development cost had risen to £10 million, which had depleted the club financially. This resulted in a difficult period in the history of Rangers, as the average attendance fell to 17,500 in the 1981-82 season, including a crowd of only 4,500 for a game against St Mirren. Some fans felt that the redeveloped stadium lacked atmosphere due to the spaces between the stands. This was during a period of low attendances in Scottish football in general. Despite the relatively low attendance at Ibrox, Rangers had the highest average home attendances in the Premier Division in both 1983-84 and 1984-85.

In 1986, a new regime chaired by David Holmes took control of Rangers. Graeme Souness was appointed player-manager, while several English stars, including Terry Butcher and Chris Woods, were signed. Season ticket sales rose from 7,000 in 1986 to over 30,000 in the 1990s, while commercial income increased from £239,000 in 1986 to over £2 million in 1989. Ibrox was at the forefront of stadium management due to the introduction of computerised ticketing, zonal public address systems, and closed-circuit television for monitoring turnstile areas. Rangers also adopted the American technique of analyzing the types of fans in each area of the stadium and adjusting their food stalls accordingly. Greater success on the pitch meant that Ibrox demonstrated that seated stadiums would be welcomed by most fans, provided they were designed and fitted well.

In November 1988, David Murray acquired control of Rangers, leading to a period of significant development at Ibrox Stadium. A £4 million extension, known as Argyle House, was opened in 1990, providing executive boxes, office space, and hospitality suites. In the early 1990s, Murray commissioned architect Gareth Hutchison to find a way to increase the stadium's capacity to over 50,000. This led to a highly complex process of adding a third tier to the Main Stand while keeping the existing structure open during construction.

The resulting Club Deck, which cost approximately £20 million, was opened in December 1991, with the redevelopment of the Main Stand partially financed by a Football Trust grant of £2 million and a debenture issue that raised £8.5 million. The addition of four columns through the existing Main Stand led to approximately 1,000 seats having a restricted view. Ibrox's capacity was 44,500 after the Club Deck's opening.

After installing a new playing surface in 1992, Rangers added a further 1,300 seats to the front of three stands by slightly lowering the pitch. In 1994, the enclosure of the Main Stand, the only standing area of the ground, was seated to comply with the Taylor Report and UEFA regulations. The multi-coloured seats were replaced with uniform blue seats in 1995, and 1,200 seats were added by reconfiguring passageways.

The spaces between the Govan, Copland, and Broomloan Stands were filled in with seats and Jumbotron screens, increasing the capacity to just over 50,000. The ground was officially renamed Ibrox Stadium after renovations were completed in 1997.

In 2006, Ibrox Stadium underwent renovations to increase its seating capacity to 50,817. Three rows of seating were added to the front of the upper tier of the Govan Stand, which also included the addition of a new 'Bar 72' area. In the same year, the Main Stand was renamed the Bill Struth Main Stand to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bill Struth's death. The Jumbotron screens were upgraded to modern LED screens in 2011.

In 2012, Rangers became insolvent and Ibrox Stadium, along with the club's business and assets, was sold to a new company owned by Charles Green. The new company gained entry to the Scottish Football League Third Division and obtained the SFA membership of the old Rangers FC company.

The Jumbotron screens were again replaced in 2013 due to deterioration, while in 2014 the Govan Stand was renamed the Sandy Jardine Stand as a tribute to the late Sandy Jardine.

In 2016, the club added 'Icons Of Ibrox' banners to the exterior of the stadium, showcasing images of past players. The following year, banners were added to the glass block-walled staircase towers on either side of the main stand, which were later removed due to fan displeasure.

In January 2023, Rangers increased the seating capacity of Ibrox Stadium to 50,987 by removing hospitality boxes in the former Argyle House Restaurant and adding 170 new seats in the Sandy Jardine Rear Stand. This also included the addition of more disabled seating and the rebranding of the area as the Blue Sky Lounge.

Ibrox Stadium boasts four covered all-seater stands, each with two tiers, except for the Bill Struth Main Stand, which has had three tiers since the Club Deck was added in 1991. The West and East areas of the Sandy Jardine Stand have one tier of seating below a JumboTron screen. The Bill Struth Main Stand, formerly known as the Main Stand, faces onto Edmiston Drive (A8 road) and features a red-brick facade that is a Category B listed building, designed by Archibald Leitch. The two stairtowers also support a 146 m (479 ft) long and 540 t (530-long-ton; 600-short-ton) truss, claimed to be the longest and heaviest clear span girder in the world.

The Sandy Jardine Stand is a two-tier stand opposite the Bill Struth Main Stand, similar in style to the two end stands, completed in 1981. The Argyle House extension, completed in 1990, provides executive boxes, hospitality areas, and office space, while the Bar 72 area was added to the rear section of the Govan Stand in 2006. The Copland Road Stand at the east end of the stadium was completed in 1979 and can now accommodate just over 8,000 fans, while the western Broomloan Road Stand is identical to the opposite end and was completed in 1980. All of the stands use the 'goalpost' structure, in which a large portal frame supports perpendicular beams on which roof cladding is secured.

The Ibrox pitch is also known for being an intimidating ground for visiting supporters, and away fans are usually situated in the corner of the ground between the Broomloan and Govan Stands. The Rangers Store is situated in the corner between the Copland Road and Govan Stands. Rangers banned Celtic fans in 1994 from attending games at Ibrox, citing the damage caused to the Broomloan Stand by the visitors in previous derbies. However, this ban was lifted after one game as the Scottish Football League passed a resolution preventing clubs from taking that action. Before the corners were filled in, away fans were accommodated in the lower tier of the Broomloan Stand.

Ibrox has been the location for 18 Scotland national football team games, making it the third most used venue in Scotland. The first Ibrox Park hosted three of these games, bringing the total to 21. In October 2014, Ibrox was chosen as a substitute venue for Hampden Park, hosting a Scotland game against Georgia. During the 1990s, Ibrox was chosen as an alternative location for several internationals due to renovations at Hampden. While attendances were higher at Ibrox, some fans were unhappy about the high ticket prices and contributing to Rangers' finances. Ibrox has also hosted several Scottish Cup and League Cup finals, and was considered for hosting major European finals in the 1990s. However, it lost a bid to host the 1996 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final due to concerns over hotel availability in Glasgow. Despite maintaining a top UEFA rating, Hampden was proposed as a venue for future European finals by the Scottish Football Association.

On 17 September 1917, King George V & Queen Mary visited Ibrox Park to express gratitude to Glasgow and Clydeside for their wartime contributions. The King awarded medals to servicemen, including three Victoria Crosses, 46 Military Medals and 33 Military Crosses in the first public investiture in Scotland. King George VI chose Ibrox Park for the opening ceremony of the 1938 Empire Exhibition, attended by 146,000 spectators, with his speech broadcasted live to the nation and the Empire. Ibrox has also been used for concerts, athletics competitions, and the rugby sevens event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The stadium hosted the 1983 Centenary Celebrations of The Boys' Brigade, and in 1980, it hosted a world championship boxing match between Jim Watt and Howard Davis.
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