Plans for the redevelopment of Ibrox were modelled on the Westfalenstadion.
The Ibrox disaster of 1971 led to the club developing a modern, safe stadium. Willie Waddell visited modern grounds in West Germany during the 1974 World Cup and believed that steep terracing and exits, such as Stairway 13, had to be replaced. The cut in capacity and boardroom changes led to radical plans by architects The Miller Partnership, which were published in November 1977. The plans were modelled on the Westfalenstadion, home ground of Borussia Dortmund. They involved a radical reshaping of the stadium, with the old bowl-shaped terracing to be replaced by three new all-seated structures. Only the old Main Stand would remain, with its enclosure providing the only standing room in the ground.
Although later events, such as the Hillsborough disaster and the subsequent Taylor Report, vindicated this plan, Rangers were taking a significant risk. The whole plan was estimated to cost £6 million, which no other club could have afforded in a short space of time. The development was funded by the Rangers football pools operation, which was the largest club-based scheme in Britain and several times larger than the Celtic equivalent. The first phase of the plan, which began in 1978, was the removal of the east terracing and its replacement with the Copland Road stand. The same process was repeated on the west side of the ground a year later, with the 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 had a capacity of 44,000 and was opened with an Old Firm game played on 19 September 1981. By this time, however, the development cost had risen to £10 million, which 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. The redeveloped stadium was partly blamed for this, as some fans felt that the new ground lacked atmosphere due to the spaces between the stands.
This all changed when a new regime, chaired by David Holmes, took control of Rangers in 1986. 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. The introduction of computerised ticketing, zonal public address systems and closed-circuit television for monitoring turnstile areas meant that Ibrox was at the forefront of stadium management. Rangers also adopted the American technique of analysing the types of fans in each area of the stadium and adjusted their food stalls accordingly. Greater success on the pitch meant that Ibrox demonstrated that seated stadiums would be welcomed by most fans, if designed and fitted well.
David Murray acquired control of Rangers in November 1988. Argyle House, a £4 million extension behind the Govan Stand, was opened in 1990. This added executive boxes, office space and hospitality suites. A further series of developments was started in the early 1990s to increase capacity to over 50,000. Murray commissioned architect Gareth Hutchison to find a way of adding a third tier to the Main Stand. This was a highly complex process, as the Main Stand facade had become a listed building and Murray wanted the existing structure to remain open during construction. The contractors removed the original roof and added a temporary cover while the work carried on above. The Club Deck, which cost approximately £20 million, was opened with a league match against Dundee United in December 1991. The redevelopment of the Main Stand was partially financed by a Football Trust grant of £2 million and a debenture issue that raised £8.5 million. Ordinary fans bought debentures for between £1,000 and £1,650 each, which guaranteed the right to buy season tickets for at least 30 years, along with some other minor benefits.
Four columns were built through the existing Main Stand to support the Club Deck, which resulted in approximately 1,000 seats having a restricted view. After opening the Club Deck, Ibrox had a capacity of 44,500. When a new playing surface was installed in 1992, Rangers were able to add a further 1,300 seats to the front of three stands by lowering the pitch slightly. The only standing area of the ground, the enclosure of the Main Stand, was seated in 1994 to comply with the Taylor Report and UEFA regulations. The multi-coloured seats were replaced in 1995 with uniform blue seats. A further 1,200 seats was added in this process by reconfiguring passageways, giving a total capacity of 47,998.
The two spaces between the Govan, Copland and Broomloan Stands were filled in with seats and JumboTron screens. The ground was officially renamed Ibrox Stadium after renovations were completed in 1997, when Ibrox had a capacity of just over 50,000. Three rows of seating were added to the front of the Govan Stand upper tier in 2006, linked to a new ‘Bar 72’ area, increasing the capacity to its present figure of 51,082. The Main Stand was renamed the Bill Struth Main Stand in September 2006, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death. The JumboTron screens were replaced in 2011.
Structure and facilities
The facade of the Bill Struth Main Stand.
The Ibrox pitch is surrounded by four covered all-seater stands, officially known as the Bill Struth Main (south), Broomloan (west), Govan (north) and Copland Road (east) Stands. Each stand has two tiers, with the exception of the Bill Struth Main Stand, which has had three tiers since the Club Deck was added in 1991. The two corner areas, known as the West and East areas of the Govan 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). The red-brick facade, designed by Archibald Leitch, is a Category B listed building. Simon Inglis, writing in 1996, described it as an "imposing red-brick facade, with its mock neo-classical arched, square and pedimented windows, exudes prestige and power." On each end wall the club crest is depicted in a blue and gold mosaic. Stairtowers leading to the Club Deck (third tier) stand at each end of the Main Stand. These towers are also framed in red-brick, but deliberately contrast with the main body of the stand. The two stairtowers also support a 146-metre (479 ft) long and 540-tonne (530-long-ton; 600-short-ton) truss, which claimed to be the longest and heaviest clear span girder in the world.
Through the main doors of the Main Stand is a wood-panelled hallway. A staircase leads to the boardroom and trophy room. Inglis compared Ibrox to Highbury, in that it combined corporate power with a sense of tradition and solidity. It was originally constructed as a 10,000-seat stand above a standing enclosure. It was redeveloped in the early 1990s with the addition of the Club Deck and seating in the enclosure. It is now a three-tier all-seated structure, accommodating approximately 21,000 spectators. The front wall of the middle tier is one of the last surviving examples of the Leitch style of criss-cross detailing. The middle tier is split into front and rear sections, while the enclosure is split into east and west sections, either side of the retractable tunnel cover.
Opposite the Bill Struth Main Stand is the Govan Stand. It is a two-tier stand, similar in style to the two end stands, which was completed in 1981. To the rear of the Govan Stand is the Argyle House extension, completed in 1990, which provides executive boxes, hospitality areas and office space. 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 now accommodates just over 8,000 fans. It is traditionally the ‘Rangers end’ of the ground and the team normally chooses to attack that end in the second half of matches. The western Broomloan Road Stand, which was completed in 1980, is identical to the opposite end. 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. All of the stands are designed using the ‘goalpost’ structure, in which a large portal frame supports perpendicular beams on which roof cladding is secured. A Rangers Megastore is located in the corner between the Copland Road and Govan Stands.
Away fans are normally accommodated in the corner of the ground between the Broomloan and Govan Stands. For bigger games, such as the Old Firm derbies, the whole of the Broomloan Stand can be used by the away support. Ibrox is seen as being an intimidating ground for visiting supporters. 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. The 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.