Rangers remembers Ibrox disaster that killed 66 fans ahead of Old Firm derby

Rangers and Celtic players mark observe a minute's silence on the 50th anniversary of the Ibrox Disaster ahead of their Scottish Premiership match. Credit: PA

Rangers football club has marked the 50th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster ahead of the Old Firm derby on Saturday.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant a scaled-back tribute to remember the 66 fans who lost their lives in a crush on January 2 1971.

The Gers had hoped to hold a memorial service to day that "changed Rangers Football Club and Scottish Football forever" but have been forced to put the plans on hold because of the pandemic.

Floral tributes and messages were left outside the stadium under the statue of John Grieg as Rangers boss Steven Gerrard asked fans not to visit the stadium ahead of Saturday's match.

In a statement released on Friday, Rangers said: “Tomorrow is the 50th Anniversary of the 1971 Ibrox Disaster – a day which changed Rangers Football Club and Scottish Football forever.

John Greig and Celtic chairman Ian Bankier lay wreaths outside the stadium on the 50th anniversary of the Ibrox Disaste Credit: PA

“It is with great sadness that the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented us from being able to hold a full, traditional service to commemorate the anniversary.

“Before the impact of the pandemic took hold, we had planned to hold a service that would be similar in style and scale to the one held at Glasgow Cathedral in 1971.

“However, as there are no options that allow us to be completely inclusive of all the families, survivors and representatives that should be present at such an occasion, we have decided to postpone a major event until circumstances allow us to hold a service that would reflect the significance and magnitude of the occasion.”

The crushed barriers at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow, where 66 people died after the crowd disaster which followed the Rangers v Celtic match. Credit: PA

Sixty six people, including 31 under the age of 20, were killed and more than 200 injured on 2 January 1971 in an exit stairway at the-then Ibrox Park in Glasgow as Rangers fans left following a final minute equaliser from the home team.

The youngest victim was nine-year-old Nigel Patrick Pickup from Liverpool.

It was the worst British football disaster until the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

Gerrard, whose cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley, 10, was the youngest victim of the Hillsborough disaster, said on Friday: “It’s a very poignant day tomorrow, the 50th year as well.

“In a normal situation, we’d have a lot of people around the ground and we’d obviously put a full service on so we could pay our respects that way.

“But because of Covid-19, things will look slightly different. However, as a club we still want to pay our full respects to everyone involved and to all the names that are no longer with us.

Tributes are left outside the ground on the 50th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster Credit: PA

“It’s a very special day tomorrow, myself and the players are all aware of that – but I would ask all our fans to stay away. I know that’s tough but we also have to pay respect to the situation we’re all in at the moment and stay safe at home.”

The former Liverpool captain admits the grief felt by the families of those who lost their lives at Ibrox resonates strongly with him.

He said: “There’s certainly a relation from my point of view with my connection to the Hillsborough disaster as well.

“I certainly know what this disaster means to people and I want to send my full respects to all the families and the survivors. I also want to pay my respects to the people who passed away.”

The usual scenes of a Celtic v Rangers game. Credit: PA

Reigning champions Celtic are aiming for 10 titles in a row but have fallen 16 points behind Rangers, although with three games in hand.

But they go into the second Old Firm battle of the season at Ibrox on a run of seven games without defeat.