Skip to main content Skip to site footer

VALLEY PARADE FIRE DISASTER

Valley Parade Fire Disaster

Saturday 11 May 1985, the day should have gone down in the history books as a day of celebration following the nine months of sweat, tears and toll which shot Bradford City to the Third Division Championship. 
 
But it turned out to be the day which sent shockwaves round the world as fire engulfed the antiquated Main Stand at Valley Parade and eventually claimed the lives of 56 supporters.
 
11,076 fans were present at Valley Parade on that fateful day when Bradford City met Lincoln City and prior to kick off they had witnessed locally-born captain Peter Jackson being presented with the Championship trophy by the Football League's Life President at the time, Dick Wragg.
 
Never in the annals of the Football League's history had a team's achievements been so tragically overshadowed.
 
At 3.40pm the first signs were noticed and fire-fighting equipment was requested. Within four minutes the flames were visible and the Police began to evacuate people in the area of Block G.
 
Match Referee Don Shaw from Sandbach stopped play three minutes before half-time with the score at 0-0 after having been alerted to the situation by one of his linesmen. The Football League subsequently ordered the scoreline at the time of the abandonment to remain.
 
What followed will live in the memory forever.
 
There were 56 supporters who lost their lives and approximately 265 injured.
 
Reaction to the horror was instant with messages of sympathy arriving from the Queen, the Pope, the Prime Minister, Church leaders and a host of political figures from around the globe.
 
According to forensic scientist Dr. David Woolley, the attributable cause of the fire was possibly the accidental dropping of a match or acigarette stubbed out in a polystyrene cup.
 
It was described as the worst fire disaster in the history of British football and the worst stadium disaster in Britain since 65 supporters perished at Ibrox in January 1971 at the end of a Rangers vs Celtic 'derby' fixture.
 
On the instructions announced in the House of Commons by the Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, a seven day hearing was conducted at City Hall in Bradford from 5 June 1985 in which statements from 77 witnesses were heard by appointed High Court Judge, Oliver Popplewell (sitting as Mr. Justice Popplewell) following a preliminary session on 23 May 1985. His interim blueprint on the findings, collated with the help of two assessors, was published on 24 July 1985.
 
The tragedy unwittingly brought about new legislation governing safety at the nation's sports grounds and stadia, a move felt long overdue in view of some of the antiquated wooden stands that had been in use for decades, especially in the lower divisions.
 
It also undoubtedly brought about an unprecedented united community spirit, buoyed by world-wide messages of condolence and monetary contributions from a host of public events etc.towards a Bradford Disaster Appeal Fund (83% of the total, amounting to £3.35m,distributed to sufferers in November 1985) and the singular aim to return to a new Valley Parade stadium after Bradford City had to play all their 'home' League and Cup fixtures for the whole of the 1985/86 season and the first half of the following season at their adopted grounds of Bradford Northern RLFC (now Bradford Bulls) at Odsal Stadium in Bradford, Huddersfield Town (Leeds Road) and Leeds United (Elland Road).
 
The reality came to fruition on 14 December 1986 with a commemorative fixture against an England X1, before a 15,000 full-house when Bradford City triumphed by a 2-1 scoreline.
 
In Centenary Square outside Bradford City Hall, there is a memorial (pictured above top right) given by the City of Hamm - Bradford's twin City in Germany.
 
At Valley Parade, a sculpture by Patricia McAllister was donated by Sylvia Graucob and can be seen above the entrance to the Executive Suites in Burlington Street. Next to the new entrance to the redeveloped Sunwin Stand a new Memorial with the names of those who lost their lives was opened prior to the first game of the 2001/2002 season and was dedicated on Saturday 11 May 2002, the 17th anniversary of the disaster.
 
This page is dedicated to those supporters who lost their lives.