This day in football history
On 12 January 1980, a portion of Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park collapsed, killing two people. It was the start of a terrible trend in football for the coming decade.
Boro season ticket holders Irene and Norman Roxby were exiting the ground by the South East corner after a 1–1 draw with Manchester United when a brick pillar crumbled, bringing two gates down with it. The Roxbys were crushed by the debris. Some witnesses to the event blamed it on a group of visiting Manchester United supporters, saying they rushed the gates after the match, triggering the collapse. In their defense, however, the United supporters claimed that the rush was sparked by efforts to get away from an over-excited police horse.
Subsequent reports revealed that Middlesborough’s safety certificates for the stadium had not been kept up to date, though the club claimed that any violation was merely technical and that all safety requirements were either met or exceeded at the time of the incident.
The deaths of the Roxbys were soon followed by larger football-related disasters, including massive losses of life at Moscow’s Lenin Stadium in 1982, Bradford City’s Valley Parade ground in 1985, Belgium’s Heysel Stadium in 1985, and Hillsborough in 1989. The Taylor Report followed the latter in August 1989, recommending the elimination of standing areas in favor of all-seater grounds. That requirement ultimately doomed Ayresome Park, which made way in 1995 for Middlesbrough’s new Riverside Stadium.