The day stand collapsed at Wigan's rugby semi-final

Our top columnist, Geoffrey Shryhane, takes a look at a rugby clash that was a shock for all the wrong reasons...

The collapsed stand that left one fan dead
The collapsed stand that left one fan dead

Some fascinating little stories – well, a lot to be honest – make a big impact but are then lost in the mists of time.

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Did you know that during a rugby league match, disaster struck when the stand collapsed? It happened on April Fool’s Day in 1939. But there was certainly nothing to laugh about.

I found the story on the Wigan Warriors RL Fan Site – and it makes for amazing reading.

The Wigan team had gone to play Salford. And the semi-final was played in farcical conditions at the Rochdale ground after a crush in the crowd had led to railings at the front of the stand giving way.

This led to thousands of fans crossing the dog track at the ground to stand at the edge of the pitch.

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The players and officials had to push through the edge of the crowds “six or seven deep” on the touchline to make it on to the field.

The story goes that there were other problems.

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An estimated 100 supporters climbed on to the railway stand roof and after a few minutes it partially gave way with a big crash.

Many of the fans under the stand were injured as the stand came crashing down.

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Two players immediately left the field to help with the injured along with ambulance men and police.

Sadly, it later transpired that Joseph Howles, aged 41, had died in the accident.

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Ann West, of Eccles, also died after attending the game although she was not directly involved in the incident. She passed away the following day after being taken ill with shock.

The match was played with Wigan losing to Salford 11-2. Players were Jim Sullivan, Denis Waterman, Johnny Lawrenson, Ted Ward, Jack Morley, Jack Garvey, Hector Gee, George Banks, Vic Darlison, Percy Moxey, Gwyn Williams, Trevor Thomas, and Ike Jones.