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[Music] if you’ve watched British football at any point in the last century you’ve seen the designs and engineering of a Scot named Archibald Leitch at the turn of the 20th century the sport was only just becoming a social and cultural phenomenon and as the appetite for the game

grew and the working and middle classes had the disposable income for leisure activities football Chiefs became obsessed with the task of cramming as many fans into their grounds as possible the man appointed to design the vast majority of these new grounds was Archibald Leitch leach began his career

as a factory engineer one of many Scots to construct the railways factories sheds and infrastructure within the British Empire the Scots had a disproportionate influence on the Machine ations of Britain in the 19th century turning Glasgow into a hub of Industry but they also dominated the landscape of

football and sport in general in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as Simon Inglis writes in his wonderful leach biography engineering Archie all the great teams in the late Victorian era Preston North End invincabels of 1888 89 Sunderland’s team of talents in the 1890s were built around

Scottish Talent the influence of Scots on industrial engineering sport and football itself meant that a man like Archibald Leitch was the ideal candidate to design the seminal football grounds of Britain but leach didn’t have groundbreaking Stadium ideas he simply saw the opportunity that engineering football stadiums presented at

a time when no one else did leach saw and felt the passion for the game and the growing number of fans determined to watch matches up close Inglis told tpho the one thing that makes Archibald Leitch different or at least a pioneer was not that he had any

particular special knowledge that got him into the business it’s that he saw the opportunities in the world of professional sport and because of his love for football decided to go into it he had no special knowledge that would enable him to do that but then nobody did at

that time born and raised in Glasgow leach was a passionate Rangers fan and was commissioned to design I Brock’s in 1899 over the next three decades leach was commissioned south of the border at Bramall Lane iesson Park Craven Cottage Stamford Bridge and field II would Park Park Avenue

Valley parade Goodison Park White Hart Lane Old Trafford the den leads right and about 15 other stadiums so what did a leech design Stadium look like well he moved the football grounds of the Victorian era from as Inglis writes cinder and gravel banks muddy dearth wooden barriers nailed

together and thumped randomly into the ground to industrial codified and rigid terraces adorned with crush rails to prevent the kind of disasters that befell those that braved the terraces of British football throughout the 20th century David Goldblatt sports journalist and sociologist describes the litchi and stadium in his

book the ball is round a global history of soccer as an enclosed stadium that had a covered seated grandstand on one long side of the pitch and open terraces on the other three as the ambition of both clubs and designer grew leach innovated by producing two-tier grandstands some

with seating above and standing below in his later efforts he created stadiums with cover on all four sides of the ground and seating and standing on each side as well because of leaches background in factory engineering these grounds possessed a certain industrial functionality the goal was simply to

pack as many paying fans into an area to watch football as was possible bleached wasn’t reckless his designs were systematic and precise these stadiums were perfectly designed for fans to watch the football the site lines were unobstructed the placement of crushed barriers and aisles meant that fans couldn’t

rush more than a few yards from their designated area yet leaches work wasn’t without its flaws tragedy befell supporters at tulle each designed stadiums by Brock’s Park and Hillsboro almost a century apart the I Brock’s disaster of 1902 during a match between Scotland and England occurred as an

upper part of the Terrace snapped and sent spectators falling as if through a trapdoor the resulting panic caused more casualties and deaths and a long protracted legal dispute began to find the copper party ultimately 25 people died and at least 516 were injured 587 would receive compensation but

this was the Machine age disasters like this were quite commonplace trains going off tracks factories going up in flames boilers combusting ship sinking this was the cost of industry and progress Rangers had to decide who would redesign and reconstruct iBox Park in the wake of this disaster according

to a letter from leach to the club chairman obtained by Inglis the Glasgow Club was very close to choosing another engineer but ultimately decided to retain leach he was determined to right the mistakes made a box and a blueprint of his subsequent designs for Craven Cottage in 1905

reveal a system of preventing the sort of crush and overcrowding that occurred on the terraces of Britain throughout the 20th century Inglis writes that following the mistakes of Ibrox leach implemented a system of distributing passages and crush rails fixed equidistantly between sunken isles each four feet in width

this became the standard amongst British terraces and was used by the guy to safety at sports grounds of which Inglis is the editor in 1973 leaches Terrace Designs stood up over half a century later as the pinnacle of stadium safety it’s clear that the I Brock’s disaster informed

leaches future designs to make sure there were no repeats and it was a departure from those designs that would lead to one of the darkest days in English football sports grounds unlike stadiums are subject to constant change there is no final blueprint when a ground is opened and

subsequent remodeling and redesigns are standard and fields Kop end originally a leach design redesigns during the 1920s in which a roof was added ended up in disaster and for the next 50 years or so there were 40 casualties and injuries a week in a cop as was the

case a Hillsborough with renovations during the decades after initial construction in 1913 changing the precision of leaches designs while the failures at Hillsborough lated to crowd control and in effective policing English told tifo had Hills bourbon designed to the kind of specifications that leach drew out at say

Chelsea and Fulham in 1904 oh five a good 80 years before the disaster there may not have been such a great loss of life it’s a bit like you design a perfect car and someone comes along in two years they change the wheels or they change better the

engine ironically it was the disaster of a box that allowed leach to design a system that would have saved lives at Hillsborough some 80 years later but those designs had been eroded away by then as the football grounds of Britain changed from the leaching grounds that became synonymous

with British football to more modern continental style stadiums leaches designs slowly fade from view Fulham Dundee United Portsmouth Everton and Rangers are the only remaining original leach stands or grandstands of the 40 or so grounds that he engineered the man who crafted the look and feel of British

football in its infancy died without any real fanfare in 1939 but his legacy remains in the memories legends and the carnage of the terraces of British football [Music]

 

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