By the spring of 1985 Bradford City looked like a football club that was finally going places. The ‘Bantams’, as they are affectionately known, had just secured promotion to the old second division when in early May the club hosted a match with Lincoln City. A bumper crowd of over 11,000 turned up to celebrate. The match failed to live up to the occasion and as half-time approached neither team appeared to be threatening to score. It was at this point that people in the antiquated wooden main stand began to notice a bright shimmering light coming from below. Others began to feel warmth under their feet. Within a few minutes flames were clearly visible and police and stewards began evacuating the packed stand.
The combination of an old wooden structure and accumulated litter that had been allowed to collect beneath the stand acted like a tinder box. Within five minutes the fire had spread to the roof, sending ash, burning embers and choking smoke onto the spectators below. One side of the ground turned into a raging inferno and those who had not yet escaped were in serious danger. Although over 50 people lost their lives and many more were injured, the figure might have been much higher had it not been for the bravery of some spectators and the police on duty that day. Many risked life, and limb to return to the heart of the fire and haul out the injured. Afterwards 22 spectators were given awards for bravery.
A subsequent investigation concluded that the fire was probably caused by a discarded cigarette end or a match. An inquiry chaired by High Court Judge Sir Oliver Popplewell reported a year later and recommended an overhaul of safety at all British sports grounds.
When was the Bradford Valley Parade Stadium Fire: May 11 1985
Where was the Bradford Valley Parade Stadium Fire: Valley Parade, Bradford, UK
What was the Bradford Valley Parade Stadium Fire death toll: 56
You should know: A council report just a year before the disaster proved tragically prescient. It warned that the build-up of litter was a possible risk, even stating that It could be ignited by a dropped cigarette. The club had no legal obligation to heed the council’s warning and the rubbish was not cleared away.