On Sunday, I entered the Janefield St tunnel from the east at 11:38 (Google tracking to the minute), and reached my turnstile (T22), which is a few meters beyond the gates. The gates were open at this time, approximately 15 minutes before kick-off. The tunnel was busy but orderly and there was no crushing.
Reports suggest the gates were closed 10 minutes before kick-off. Fans continued to walk towards their turnstile, not knowing the gates ahead were closed. This caused crushing and distress, as fans were boxed in.
There was a slightly higher footfall in the tunnel than previous games against Newco, or others. 6,000 extra Celtic fans were situated at the east of the stadium than were there during previous games against Newco. Some of them approached the stadium from the west. The police stopped Celtic fans walking west-to-east along London Road, leaving the Janfield St tunnel as the only available route.
This scenario is reminiscent of what happened at the Hillsborough Disaster. Fans entered the Leppings Lane terrace through a tunnel, unaware that ahead was a solid wall of people. Fans walking through the tunnel had no way of knowing they were trapping people in front of them. There was no escape to the side and police refused to open gates at the pitch side of the terrace. 96 people died.
No significant crushing injuries happened on Sunday probably because the police realised the consequence of closing the gates and opened them again within minutes, and the crowd remained calm. Those trapped in the tunnel were lucky.
Tunnels are not inherently dangerous but become so when badly controlled. It is permissible to block people from entering them, but it is negligent to create a blockage in a tunnel that becomes a crush-point, stopping people passing through, or leaving.
I was at a serious incident on Janefield St in 1985, when four mounted police created panic by charging through the back of a crowd leaving a Celtic-Rangers game. That evening I witnessed a bottle fly out of the Rangers end and hit an officer on the head, causing him to collapse. Then, after the game, I saw a Celtic fan throw an object at a mounted police officer, striking him on the face.
I am sure the subsequent charge through the crowd was some sort of indiscriminate retribution for the latter incident, on a day the police suffered at least two casualties. The subsequent investigation and findings completely contradicted what I saw.
Before Sunday’s game serious mistakes were made. Clear acknowledgment must be made this time.