Ibrox Stadium, originally Ibrox Park, is the stadium of Rangers F.C. It is located on the south side of the River Clyde, on Edmiston Drive in the Ibrox district of Glasgow, Scotland.
As one of the oldest and largest stadia in Britain, the site of two major disasters and as one of the first wave of predominantly all-seater football grounds in Britain, Ibrox has been identified as a stadium of historical significance. Its architectural importance was recognised in 1987 with the designation of its South Stand, now named the Bill Struth Main Stand, as a Category B listed building.
Ibrox comprises four stands, all designed using the ‘goalpost’ structure, in which a large portal frame supports perpendicular beams on which roof cladding is secured. The Copland stand, at the east end of the stadium, was completed in 1979 and originally accommodated 7,500 spectators (later increased to around 8,000). It is traditionally the ‘Rangers end’ of the ground, and the team normally chooses to shoot towards that end in the second half of matches. An identical stand – the Broomloan – was completed in 1980 at the western end of the ground. In 1981, the Govan stand, to the north of the stadium, was completed, with a broadly similar design to the Copland and Broomloan, and comprising two tiers of seating, but accommodating 11,000 spectators. Although constructed as separate structures, the three stands have been linked since the mid-1990s, when two additional areas of seating were added to the corner areas between them.
The fourth stand — the Bill Struth Main (South) Stand — dates from the original stadium construction in 1929. It accommodates the club’s administrative offices, an array of corporate entertainment facilities, player lounges and changing rooms, and a trophy room. It was originally constructed as a 10,294-seat stand, above a standing enclosure accommodating around 9000 supporters. Subsequently, it has been redeveloped in stages and comprises a three-tier all-seated structure accommodating approximately 21,500 spectators.
The new stadium comprised large wooden terraces and a stand accommodating some 4,500 spectators. Its design contributed to large-scale loss of life on April 5, 1902, when 25 people were killed and 517 injured as part of the west terracing collapsed during the annual international game with England. It constituted football’s worst disaster at that time.
Remedial improvements to Ibrox continued from 1902 until 1917. But it was not until 1929 that the next major redevelopment occurred, with the completion of the new Main Stand, to the south side of the ground, on the 1st of January. Its designer was Archibald Leitch, the Scottish engineer responsible for stands at the grounds of Arsenal, Celtic, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Aston Villa. Leitch’s work was later to become amongst the most celebrated of football architecture. The Main Stand at Ibrox provides a classic example of Leitch’s characteristic style of criss-cross steelwork balustrades. Leitch’s designs, until cantilever stands began to emerge from the 1950s, were considered leading-edge, and the Main Stand has been described as “perhaps the most majestic” example of his work. For Simon Inglis, the noted commentator on football stadia development, the Main Stand is Leitch’s “greatest work…still resplendent today in its red brick glory under a modern mantle of glass and steel”. Like Leitch’s stand and pavilion at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, the architectural significance of the Ibrox Main Stand is reflected in its status as a Category B listed building.
With the Main Stand completed, the bowl-shaped ground was one of Britain’s largest football stadia, with a total capacity said to be 139,940, second only to Hampden Park, also in Glasgow’s south side.
The appearance of the stadium changed little for several decades, until a dramatic redevelopment over the final decades of the twentieth century. The first major innovation came with the construction of the Copland, Broomloan and Govan stands in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This involved a radical reshaping of the stadium, with the old bowl-shaped configuration replaced by three new, freestanding structures, alongside the remaining Main Stand. The spur was the Ibrox disaster of 1971, which resulted in death of 66 spectators and prompted the club, led by General Manager Willie Waddell, to begin to develop a more modern – and safe – stadium. This involved the removal of, first, the east terracing (the traditional Rangers end, sometimes colloquially called ‘the Derry’) and its replacement with the Copland Road stand. An identical stand on the west side of the ground, the Broomloan, was added a year later. The redevelopment was completed with the Govan stand, which replaced the benched-seating Centenary Stand, built in 1973.
The result of this ambitious redevelopment was what was widely acknowledged as by far the most modern club football ground in Britain. The stadium’s then contemporary design garnered many plaudits, not least because in some eyes it married the grandeur of Leitch’s Main Stand with what Simon Inglis described as an ‘integrity’ in the new stands which at that time distinguished Ibrox from most other major football grounds in Britain. Inglis, writing in 1987, described Ibrox as “undoubtedly the best club ground of its size in Britain”. The stadium’s new capacity of around 44,000 was considerably smaller than the 85,000 or so that had preceded it. However, the redeveloped Ibrox, with some 36,000 seats – more than in any club ground in Britain at that time – foreshadowed the advent of all-seated stadia for all Britain’s principal football clubs, as required by the Taylor Report of 1989.
A further series of developments was instituted in the early 1990s to enable the stadium to comply with the requirements of the Taylor Report and to increase overall capacity. A third tier – the Club Deck – was added to Leitch’s Main Stand, adding 7,300 seats. The remaining standing areas of the ground, the east and west enclosures of the Main Stand, were seated at around the same time. In a further effort to expand the stadium’s capacity, the configuration of the now all-seated stadium was altered in the mid-1990s, and two additional areas of seating added in the spaces between the Govan and Copland/Broomloan stands. The ground’s name was officially changed to Ibrox Stadium after renovations completed in 1997. By 2005, the stadium’s all-seated capacity was 50,411.
In 2006, a further series of incremental increases in the stadium’s capacity began with the addition of two rows of seating on the front of the upper tier of the Govan stand. Linked to a new ‘Bar 72′ area (named in honour of the club’s triumph in the 1972 European Cup Winners’ Cup), the new area accommodated 638 ‘premium’ seats. At the club’s AGM in 2006, chief executive Martin Bain announced that further schemes were probable for the Copland and Broomloan stands, raising overall stadium capacity by around 800 to a total of approximately 51,900.
The Main Stand was renamed the Bill Struth Main Stand in September 2006 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of the club’s most celebrated manager.
Potential future developments
In 2007, newspaper reports, citing unattributed sources, claimed further plans to increase the stadium’s capacity to a reported 57,000, principally by replacing the ‘jumbotron’ screens in the two corners between the Copland, Broomloan and Govan stands. It was also reported that under this plan the pitch would be lowered (following at least one previous instance in the early 1990s) to accommodate further additional seating. However, these plans were said to be dependent for finance upon improved performance by the team. The claims of redeveloping Ibrox stadium were then verified by the club.
Alongside changes to the stadium itself, Rangers have also sought to develop land around Ibrox. In partnership with the Las Vegas Sands corporation, the club received outline planning permission from Glasgow City Council for the development of land adjoining Ibrox as the home of Britain’s first ‘regional casino’ (also called ‘super casino’). The casino was to be accompanied by a Rangers-themed leisure complex. Britain’s Casino Advisory Panel reviewed bids from eight short-listed cities, including a number of potential sites proposed by Glasgow City Council, and in 2007 awarded the first license to Manchester. There is no immediate prospect of the Ibrox proposal being resurrected.
On January 6, 2008, Rangers announced that they were investigating three options to further develop Ibrox, one of which would result in the largest sports stadium in Scotland. The development, which would result in a new capacity of 70,000, would see the fascia and structure of the existing Bill Struth Main Stand retained, as it is a category B listed building, with the Govan, Broomloan Road and Copland Road stands demolished and replaced with a “bowl-type” structure. The redevelopment would make Ibrox the second-largest club stadium in the British Isles after Old Trafford.
A Rangers spokesperson said, “At present, we are analysing three strategies which would enhance the development of the existing outline planning proposals for the Hinshelwood area to the south of the stadium.
“One of the strategies includes the total rebuilding of Ibrox Stadium while retaining the brick facade, the tradition and the integrity of the Bill Struth Main Stand.
The club stresses that, at this time, it is assessing these proposals and no decisions will be reached imminently.
“Further details will be announced at the appropriate time.”
On February 20, 2008, Murray reiterated plans to redevelop Ibrox, telling the club’s website that he, “could assure all supporters that we are putting all the building blocks together to develop the stadium”, and that he was hoping “to make an announcement sooner rather than later.”
A record crowd of 118,567 gathered in January 1939 for a league match with Celtic. This remains the record attendance for a League match in Britain (though many Cup matches supersede this record).
The stadium is one of 27 European stadia which have UEFA’s 5-star rating, one of only two in Scotland along with Hampden Park. This enables it to host finals of the UEFA Champions League and the European Championship.