Saturday, April 11, 2015

11 April 2001 - The Ellis Park Stadium Disaster

On 11 April 2001, Kaizer Chiefs hosted Orlando Pirates at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium in a match that turned into the worst sporting disaster in South African history.

With the fiercest rivalry in South African football, the Chiefs and Pirates already had a tragic history. In 1991, forty-one fans were killed in a stampede during a friendly between the two teams at Oppenheimer Stadium in Orkney. Then in 1998, in a match at Ellis Park, several fans rioted, resulting in the police firing rubber bullets into the crowd. Still another incident occurred in 2000 at Johannesburg's First National Bank Stadium, when several thousand spectators tried to force their way through the gates.

The incident on 11 April was rooted in the same cause - although the stadium had a capacity of 60,000, many more gained entry. Some reports place the total number of spectators at 120,000. As the crowd surged into the stadium, 43 people died after being trampled in the rush. The match was stopped and the crowd was sent home as the bodies were laid out on the pitch.

The official report placed the blame on several factors, including corrupt ticket sellers who accepted bribes to admit fans without tickets, abandoned vehicles that congested the entrances, poor control measures over complimentary admissions, and poor decision-making by security personnel. Both Kaizer Chiefs, as the home team, and the Ellis Park management were held responsible, as were the private security firms they had hired to control the crowd.

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