The Blog

The Bradford Fire and Why It Matters

This weekend, matches across the country will fall silent for a minute before kick-off to commemorate the Bradford fire disaster, which occurred 30 years ago.
Keystone via Getty Images

This weekend, matches across the country will fall silent for a minute before kick-off to commemorate the Bradford fire disaster, which occurred 30 years ago.

On May 11 1985, 56 people lost their lives at Valley Parade, the home of Bradford City, due to a fire that swept through the main stand shortly before half time in their match against Lincoln City.

It was meant to be a day of celebration as Bradford City had already wrapped up the Canon League Third Division title and the ground was full to capacity.

As a 10 year old boy, watching footage of the fire left an indelible mark on me, as someone who was beginning to immerse themselves into football in a big way.

The fire is available to watch on YouTube, but I don't recommend you watch it; the clip is extremely distressing.

The football industry was on its knees at the time, rampant hooliganism and falling attendances made football fans pariahs; Premier League football and its associated razzmatazz was long to be dreamt of.

The fire's cause was attributed to a discarded cigarette, which caused the flames to rip through the wooden stand, some of it lined with flammable felt.

The stand was ill-equipped to cope with an emergency situation; six exits at the back of the stand were found to have been locked, with seven forced or found to be open by supporters fleeing the fire.

A total of 27 bodies were found at the rear near to the centre of the stand.

Some had been crushed to death trying to crawl underneath the turnstiles, with at least two pensioners who died in their seats, unable to escape.

After the fire, a newspaper from 1968 and a pre-decimalisation peanut wrapper were found in the charred remains of the wooden flooring, underneath which was covered in rubbish.

The Club had been warned prior to the fire about the potential of a fire starting due to the stand's construction but the advice was not acted upon.

The Ibrox Stadium disaster in 1971, which caused the death of 66 spectators, forced all football stadia from the top two divisions to be governed by The Green Code, a set of safety regulations which were designed to make football grounds safer.

The lower divisions were exempt; had Valley Parade been under the Green Code, then the fire would not have caused such havoc, or have even started.

The policy was absurd; for the 1984/85 season, my team's stadium - Griffin Park - had a capacity of 37,000 and was free of regulation with Brentford in the Third Division, but Second Division Wimbledon's Plough Lane ground, with room for 20,000 fewer spectators, wasn't.

It's not wise to comment on the recent revelations about alternative theories as to the blaze's cause, but its affects were felt across the country.

The Green Code was immediately enforced for all professional clubs.

That meant three sides of Griffin Park was closed for the first home game of the season in August 1985 as Brentford ensured it complied with the code's guidelines.

Fans may lament terraces and the bygone era of football stadia but must also be thankful that they are now not treated with contempt and ignorance when it comes to their safety when attending matches.

It is important to remember the Bradford fire, and just before 3pm tomorrow against Reading, I hope you will join me and many others to pay a minute's respects to their memory.

Below is a list of the Bradford fire victims with their ages; may they continue to rest in peace:

Ackroyd, John Douglas 32

Anderton, Edmund 68

Baines, Alexander Shaw 70

Bamford, Herbert 72

Bulmer, Christopher James 11

Coxon, Jack Leo 76

Coxon, Leo Anthony 44

Crabtree, David James 30

Crabtree, Harry 76

Dempsey, Derek 46

Firth, Muriel 56

Firth, Samuel 86

Fletcher, Andrew 11

Fletcher, Edmond 63

Fletcher, John 34

Fletcher, Peter 32

Forster, Nellie 64

Greenwood, Felix Winspear 13

Greenwood, Peter 46

Greenwood, Rupert Benedict 11

Hall, Norman 71

Halliday, Peter Anthony 34

Hartley, Arthur 79

Hindle, Edith 79

Hindle, Frederick 76

Hodgson, Moira Helen 15

Hudson, Eric 72

Hughes, John 64

Hutton, John 74

Kerr, Walter 76

Lovell, Peter Charles 43

Ludlam, Jack 55

Mcpherson, Gordon Stuart 39

Mcpherson, Irene 28

Mason, Roy 74

Middleton, Frederick Norman 84

Mitchell, Harold 79

Muhl, Elizabeth 21

Normington, Ernest 74

Ormondroyd, Gerald Priestley 40

Ormondroyd, Richard John 12

Ormondroyd, Robert Ian 12

Pollard, Sylvia Lund 69

Price, Herbert 78

Roberts, Amanda Jayne 20

Sampson, Jane 18

Stacey, William 72

Stockman, Craig Albert 14

Stockman, Jane Ashley 16

Stockman, Trevor John 38

Turner, Howard Malcolm 41

Turner, Sarah Elizabeth 16

Ward, Simon Neil 18

Wedgeworth, Robert 72

West, William James 78

Wright, Adrian Mark 11

This blog post was first published on Brentford FC's official website here.