Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Saturday May 11th 1985.
The day should have gone down in the history books as one of celebration, following nine months of sweat, tears and toll which saw Bradford City promoted to the Second Division, as champions of Division Three. 
But it turned out to be the day which sent shockwaves around the world, as fire engulfed the antiquated Main Stand at Valley Parade, eventually taking the lives of 56 supporters. 
11,076 spectators were present at Valley Parade on that fateful day - when Bradford City met Lincoln City - and, prior to kick-off, they had witnessed Bradford-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.
Referee Don Shaw - from Sandbach - stopped play three minutes before half-time with the score at 0-0, 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.
Fifty-six supporters lost their lives and and around 265 more were 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 world.
According to forensic scientist Dr. David Woolley, the attributable cause of the fire was possibly the accidental dropping of a match or cigarette, 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 'Old Firm' derby fixture.
On instruction announced in the House of Commons by Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, a seven-day hearing was conducted at City Hall in Bradford from June 5th 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 May 23rd 1985.
His interim blueprint on the findings - collated with the help of two assessors - was published on July 24th 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 which had been in use for decades, particularly in lower divisions.
It also undoubtedly brought about an unprecedented united community spirit, buoyed by worldwide messages of condolence and monetary contributions from a host of public events 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 home league and cup fixtures for the entirety 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 into fruition on December 14th 1986 with a commemorative fixture against an England XI, in front of 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 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 and main reception on Burlington Street.
Next to the new entrance to the redeveloped JCT600 (Main) Stand (West), 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 11th May 2002, the 17th anniversary of the disaster.
This page is dedicated to those supporters who lost their lives.
iFollow Next Match Tickets Contact