11 May 2010

25 years on, the Bradford fire burns fresh in the memory

It was supposed to be a day of celebration. On the final day of the 1984/85 season, fans gathered at Bradford City’s Valley Parade to celebrate winning the Third Division championship, their first trophy in 56 years.

For those who escaped the ground alive that afternoon, celebration turned into a disaster which forever changed the face of English football.

It is believed that a dropped match – smoking was still allowed in football grounds in those days – ignited discarded rubbish underneath the main stand, a rickety wooden structure which was due to be demolished after the game. Once it had started, the wind swept the fire rapidly through the length and depth of the stand, turning it into a burning cauldron. Within four minutes the entire stand was ablaze.

56 people died. Over 200 others were injured, many with serious burns.

The resultant Popplewell Inquiry led to the introduction of new legislation to improve safety, most notably prohibiting the construction of new wooden grandstands at all UK sports grounds.

Today, 25 years to the day after the fire which devastated the community, memorial services are being held at Bradford's Centenary Square, Bradford Cathedral and at the Valley Parade ground.

More complete details of the tragedy, along with stories and tributes, are plentiful both online and in the broadcast media today. If you are not familiar with the events, they are worth a look, if only for a reminder of how far stadium safety has progressed in the past 25 years.

For those of us who are old enough to recall the images and emotions associated with that tragic day, the mere mention of the Bradford fire is more than enough. We remember.