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NORTHERN COMMERCIALS STADIUM

Northern Commercials Stadium at Valley Parade

Modern stands tower over rows of terrace houses to provide an impressive spectacle which makes Valley Parade unrecognisable from the ground that supporters knew before the 1985 Bradford Fire Disaster when the 77-year old wooden stand was destroyed.

The ground, which is on a sloping tip site, was originally constructed during a three-month period in 1886 when Manningham Rugby Club were forced to move from nearby Carlisle Road after their ground was sold to build Drummond School.

Bradford City, who were formed in 1903 when Manningham decided to switch from rugby to soccer, developed so rapidly that they gained promotion from the old First Division five years later and the Directors hurriedly constructed a ground to cope with the large crowds - anything between 25,000 and 30,000 - that flocked to Valley Parade to see the biggest names in English football.

The club faced a similar problem in 1999 when they gained promotion to the Premiership and decided to add a second tier to the main stand, giving Valley Parade a 25,000 all-seater capacity to cope with the attraction of football's elite.

Unfortunately City were relegated just as the Main Stand extension was completed.

Following the Bradford City Fire on 11 May 1985 (left), Valley Parade laid derelict for 12 months while a decision on its future was taken, although Reserve Team games were played there with crowds of just a few hundred gathered under the shed at the Bradford End.

In the meantime the Bantams played their games at Leeds United, Huddersfield Town and Odsal Stadium and it was thought that Bradford Council, who owned Odsal, would have liked City to abandon Valley Parade and share the stadium with Bradford Northern (now Bradford Bulls).

However, the hardcore of City supporters, then numbering about 6,000 were adamant that they wanted to return to their traditional home and so in June 1986, 13 months after the fire, work began on a £2.6m redevelopment scheme.

Most of the money came from West Yorkshire County Council, then going out of business. They provided £1.4m, the club £650,000 and the remainder came from the Football League Ground Improvement Trust.

The scheme, which took six months to complete, was completed in time for a grand re-opening match between Bradford City and Bobby Robson's England Team which included star players like Kevin Keegan and Peter Shilton and was played in front of a capacity crowd of 16,000. It was an emotional occasion.

The next improvement came in 1991 when the present £1m 1,800 seater stand at the Bradford End replacing the standing terrace was opened but the major developments came after Geoffrey Richmond became Chairman in 1994 and coincided with City's rise up the Divisions.

He had a vision for a ground to match his ambitions for the team and the most significant development was his decision to build a new £1.5m 4,500 seater stand on the troublesome Midland Road side of the ground.

The project was announced three months before City's historic triumph in the Division 2 Play-Off Final at Wembley. It was completed in time for the Boxing Day fixture against Sheffield United in 1996 and was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen the following March when she visited Bradford to distribute the Royal Maundy.

As a Division 1 club, City had three years in which to comply with legislation and convert their ground into an all-seater stadium. That meant demolishing the Kop and building that into an all-seater stand costing £2.5m, a project that started during the 1998-99 Premiership promotion season.

The roof of the Kop was removed in December 1998 and the new stand provided seating for 7,486, replacing a 7,234 standing area.

The corner between the Kop and the Main Stand, the North West Corner, was filled in and came into use for the first time at the Boxing Day match against Sunderland in 2000.

A new suite of offices and superstore was also build behind the North West Corner.

Work also began on the £7.5m main stand during the 2000 close season as City prepared for their second season in the Premiership and by the time it was ready, City were already doomed to relegation.

It became fully operational for a pre-season friendly with Blackburn Rovers.

The extensive ground redevelopment spread over 5 years had given Bradford City a 25,000 capacity stadium for the Premiership.

All that is left to be done when finances permit is the area which links the Main Stand and the Bradford End including the Dressing Room areas and Bradford City will have a stadium fit to take it well into its second century. 

While the stadium is commonly known throughout the game as Valley Parade, its official title is the Northern Commercials Stadium following a welcome sponsorship agreement.