Bradford Stadium Fire Man On Fire?

16.10.2022

Bradford Stadium Fire Man On Fire
Bradford City stadium fire: Police identify man who ‘dropped the cigarette that started the fire’ Australian Eric Bennett, who has now died, was visiting the stadium with his nephew at the time of the blaze.

Did the man on fire at Bradford survive?

Victims and injured [ edit ] – Of the 56 people who died in the fire, 54 were Bradford supporters and two supported Lincoln. They included three who tried to escape through the toilets, 27 who were found by exit K and turnstiles 6 to 9 at the rear centre of the stand, and two elderly people who had died in their seats.

  • Some had been crushed as they tried to crawl under turnstiles to escape;
  • One retired mill worker made his way to the pitch, but was walking about on fire from head to foot;
  • People smothered him to extinguish the flames, but he later died of his injuries in hospital;

Half of those who died were either aged under 20 or over 70, and the oldest victim was the club’s former chairman, Sam Firth, aged 86. More than 265 supporters were injured. The fire was described as the worst fire disaster in the history of British football , and the worst football related disaster since 66 spectators died at Ibrox in 1971.

How many died in Bradford stadium fire?

Bradford Stadium Fire Man On Fire Image source, Bradford City Image caption, The memorial service was moved online during the pandemic but flowers were laid at the sculpture in Centenary Square A memorial service to remember 56 football fans who died in the Bradford City fire is due to be held in person for the first time in three years. The Bantams were playing Lincoln City at Valley Parade when the blaze killed 54 Bradford fans and two Lincoln supporters on 11 May 1985. Remembrance events were moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic. The service at the memorial sculpture in Centenary Square is due to start at 11:00 BST, the council said.

Among those expected to attend include representatives from both clubs as well as family and friends of the victims. Lord mayor of Bradford Shabir Hussain said: “It is important to the city and district that we take time to remember those who were affected and those who continue to be affected by the tragic events on 11 May 1985.

“This year will be even more poignant as we can come together in person to remember. ” Bradford City’s chief executive, Ryan Sparks, said: “After the past couple of years we have had, in holding digital services in conjunction with Bradford Metropolitan District Council as a result of the ongoing pandemic, it is hugely important for us to be able to pay our respects to those who sadly lost their lives, and the families which remain affected by the tragedy to this day, in the most fitting way possible.

” He invited everyone to “come together” in paying tribute to the victims. Last week, the club condemned vandals for defacing the memorial. Mr Sparks said he was “disgusted and deeply saddened” to see the sculpture being desecrated and appealed for anyone with information to contact police.

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What caused the fire at Bradford football ground?

After Hillsborough, the Bradford City FC stadium fire was the second worst sporting tragedy in England, leaving 56 dead and at least 265 injured. The fire started five minutes before half-time during the match on 11 May between Bradford and Lincoln City.

  1. It was later established that the blaze was caused by a fan who went to put his cigarette out but dropped it between the floorboards onto a pile of rubbish that had been building up below;
  2. Owing to windy conditions, less than four minutes later the entire wooden stand was engulfed in smoke and fire;

Radiated heat from the burning roof of the stand set fire to the clothing of fans trapped underneath. People ran onto the pitch with their clothes on fire while others were trapped at the back of the stand where they had gone to try to escape through the turnstiles.

By the time the fire brigade arrived they were faced with huge flames and dense smoke. An inquiry launched in the aftermath of the disaster led to legislation to improve safety at football grounds. This included the banning of new wooden grandstands at all sports venues in the UK.

All existing grandstands deemed fire risks were faced with immediate closure. Cigarette smoking was also banned at all grounds with wooden stands. The inquiry had found that the club had been warned that the accumulation of rubbish beneath the stands was a fire risk.

It transpired that the wooden stand had already been condemned and was set to be demolished just two days after the tragedy. Although there was no perimeter fencing, such as led to the devastating crush at Hillsborough, locked turnstiles meant that many fans who tried to escape by that means were killed or seriously injured.

The courts held the club to be two thirds responsible, finding that it gave “no or very little thought to fire precautions” despite repeated warnings. The local council was deemed to be one third responsible.

Who did Bradford City play on the day of the fire?

Fifty-six people died and more than 250 others were injured in one of the biggest disasters at a British football ground on May 11th, 1985. – 11th May 2022 | Retro , Bradford City , Football Matthew Crist When Bradford City played Lincoln City at Valley Parade on May 11th, 1985, what should have been an afternoon of celebration quickly turned into one of the worst disasters ever seen at a British football ground.

The 1984/85 season had been one of the most successful in Bradford City’s 82-year history. Led by former Leeds United and England international Trevor Cherry , the Bantams won only their third divisional title and earned a return to the second tier of English football for the first time since 1937.

City were presented with the Division Three championship trophy before kick-off and such was the air of excitement that over 11,000 people were at Valley Parade that day, almost double the usual average for the season. However, the celebratory mood soon turned into one of shock and horror when, at around 3:40 pm, the main stand at Valley Parade became engulfed by flames which reduced the entire wooden structure to cinders. Bradford Stadium Fire Man On Fire “Something caught my eye,” he later explained. “I asked the director to get the camera to go a little closer. There was a bit of paper on fire, but it was so small. But the scene became progressively horrendous, grotesque, and I was having to describe things you couldn’t possibly imagine. ” Within minutes the fire had spread through the stand due to the windy conditions with some fans claiming that they could feel their feet getting warmer as debris began to burn below them.

Initially, the fire appeared to be nothing more than a small blaze and was soon noticed by ITV commentator John Helm who was covering the game for Yorkshire Television that day. Supporters searched for fire extinguishers while the Police began to evacuate the stand with flames soon spreading to the roof and across the wooden steps as timber and other materials began to fall onto the crowd.

After just four minutes of the initial blaze starting the wooden stand was fully ablaze as many of the 3,000 people sitting there escaped by climbing over the perimeter fence onto the pitch – the subsequent inquiry into the disaster concluded the fire spread “faster than a man could run. Bradford Stadium Fire Man On Fire “The referee blew his whistle to stop the game and told us to get back to the dressing room,” recalled City midfielder  John Hendrie some years later. “We couldn’t run back down the tunnel. We had to run up the stairs, through the office doors and out onto the street. Once we went out it was mayhem, manic, chaotic. All you could see was a black cloud, all you could hear was sirens and screams and all you could smell was burning.

  • ” Others weren’t so lucky and headed towards the exits at back of the stands which had been locked after kick-off and this is where the many of those who died perished in the inferno;
  • On the pitch, referee Norman Glover had no option but to stop the game as the horror unfolded in front of both sets of players who could feel the heat from the flames even from the other side of the ground;

” Those lucky enough to escape, including players from both sides, took refuge in a pub across the road from the ground as friends and family members desperately tried to find their loved ones in the chaos. “The players were told to go to the pub at the top of the road,” John Hendrie would later reveal.

“We didn’t know at this point if anyone had been killed. The scene in there was one of silence and shock. We had not been told anything. “We stayed in the pub for hours. We were sat in our football kit, we didn’t know what to do.

It wasn’t until later on when assistant manager Terry Yorath came in and said: ‘It’s not good. ‘” Bradford fan David Pendleton, then aged 21, was at the game that day in the main stand and remembers how something which initially appeared trivial quickly became a desperate situation. Bradford Stadium Fire Man On Fire “I got pushed down to the front and I remember looking around and suddenly this smouldering, small fire had taken over virtually half a block and was starting to hit the roof. That’s when I thought ‘this is time to get out of here’. That’s when everybody else had the same thought. “I walked past a public telephone outside the ground and there were queues of people waiting to ring home. Some of the local residents opened their houses so people could make phone calls, but until I arrived home my mum and my brother had no idea whether I was alive or dead.

“For the first-minute people were laughing and joking, it wasn’t anything serious,” he told the BBC in 2015. “Then, in the space of 120-odd seconds, it really kicked in. ” Fifty-four Bradford City supporters and two Lincoln fans would die in the horror, the youngest were three 11-year old boys, the oldest being the club’s former chairman, Sam Firth who was 86.

Three people were killed trying to escape through the toilets, while 27 bodies were found at the back of the stand by the locked exit doors and two elderly people died in their seats. Some had been crushed as they tried to crawl under turnstiles to escape while a man who was captured on television running across the pitch on fire later died in hospital of his injuries. Bradford Stadium Fire Man On Fire Of all the Fletcher family who attended the game that day, 12-year old Martin was the only survivor. “One day I went to a football match with my family and the next day, I woke up and didn’t have a father, a brother, or a grandfather or an uncle,” he would later say. F orty-year-old Gerald Ormondroyd also died that day, along with his 12-year old twin sons Richard and Robert, just two of ten families to lose more than one member at Valley Parade.

  • The list of victims reveals the impact the disaster had on families as fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, husbands and wives went to a football game that day never to come home again;
  • The 1985 inquiry into the tragedy headed by Sir Oliver Popplewell concluded that it was an accident, probably started by a spectator dropping a cigarette into rubbish that had accumulated under an old timber stand;

New legislation was introduced with the immediate closure of all wooden stands deemed unsafe, the banning of smoking within other wooden stands and the banning of any new wooden stands being built at all sports grounds. But it was too late for the 56 fans that went to a football match and never returned who are still remembered, not just by those in Bradford and Lincoln, but by football fans throughout the country.

Two memorials now stand at Valley Parade, with another in the city centre and since that fateful day, Bradford City have played with black trim on their kit as a permanent memorial to those who lost their lives.

On May 11th each year a memorial service is held in Bradford’s Centenary square with the Lord Mayor of Bradford being joined by The Mayor and Mayoress of Lincoln to remember those who passed away in one of the most shocking tragedies ever witnessed at a British football ground. Follow Matthewjcrist on Twitter.

What is the Popplewell Report?

A Committee of Inquiry chaired by Sir Oliver Popplewell was set up under the Safety at Sports Grounds Act to investigate the causes and find ways to improve safety. The Inquiry also considered the tragedies at Birmingham City and the Heysel stadium. In Memory of the 56: the Papers of the Popplewell Inquiry.

Where was the fire in Bradford today?

A fire broke out in a high-rise building in Bradford city centre last night. The blaze, which is thought to have broke out inside Landmark House, an apartment block on the street of Broadway, prompted a full evacuation where at least 10 fire engines were in attendance.

What caused the fire at Mile High stadium?

There was an error processing your subscription. – The Denver Fire Department noted that the fire — which started in an East Club lounge construction area — was accidental. There were also no injuries due to the fire. “Our staff did a great job in what was a serious situation,” Ellis said.

  1. “Everything worked the way it was supposed to in terms of our sprinkler system and evacuation system, which was important because the fumes from those seats (burning) were incredibly toxic — something I didn’t realize was an issue, but it would have been significant for people had they been subjected to it;

” Ellis did say that Mile High is still set to host events next month and that the fire will not “slow down the operations of the stadium; everything will continue to run and be in place for the summer.

What stadium burned down?

DENVER — Firefighters extinguished a blaze that torched several rows of seats and a suite area at the Denver Broncos’ stadium on Thursday. The fire broke out on the fourth level at Empower Field at Mile High just after 2 p. and spread to the third level, where it burned at least six rows of seats in two sections.

Firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control but were trying to determine if it had spread to other areas of the football stadium, which seats 76,125 people. Stadium officials said in a statement on Twitter that the fire occurred in a construction zone near the East Club Lounge.

At least 100 people were attending an event on the second level, but the stadium was otherwise empty. About 75 firefighters were on scene at the height of the blaze. No injuries were reported. Footage from a news helicopter showed several firefighters using water hoses to extinguish the blaze, which sent a large plume of black smoke billowing out of the stadium near downtown Denver.

The Denver Fire Department tweeted several photos showing large flames spreading through the seating area. Capt. Greg Pixley, a spokesman for the fire department, said it appears the fire originated in the suite but was partially suppressed by a sprinkler system.

It then spread to the seats, which are made of plastic. “This type of plastic that the seats are composed of burns with not only significant ferocity, very large flames, but also produces a tremendous amount of black smoke,” he said. Investigators have not said what caused the fire, which burned at least 1,000 square feet (93 square meters).

A welder’s torch was blamed for starting a similar fire that burned plastic seats in the west stands of the old Mile High Stadium in January 2002. “Our firefighters have an experience with this type of fire fight.

Any time that you have a fire on an upper level, you’re going to have to move a great deal of equipment to that environment. So our firefighters brought a number of heavy pieces of hose and equipment, saws and the like, to be able to help them extinguish this fire,” Pixley said Thursday.

How many died at Hillsborough?

Hillsborough disaster , incident in which a crush of football (soccer) fans ultimately resulted in 97 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The crushing occurred during a match at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield , England , on April 15, 1989. The tragedy was largely attributed to mistakes made by the police.

An FA Cup semifinal match was scheduled between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989, at Hillsborough, a neutral venue. The sold-out game was expected to draw more than 53,000 fans. To prevent hooliganism, fans for the two teams were directed to enter from different sides of the stadium.

Liverpool supporters with tickets for the standing terraces were to enter along Leppings Lane. There they were to pass though one of seven turnstiles, after which there were two tunnels that opened into “pens,” areas enclosed by high fences with a narrow gate.

  1. Central pens 3 and 4 were accessed from the main tunnel, while the side pens were entered through the less prominent corridor;
  2. Due to the limited number of turnstiles, a bottleneck formed as approximately 10,100 fans attempted to enter the stadium on the Leppings Lane side;

By about 2:30 pm , some 30 minutes before kickoff, more than half of those fans were still outside. Hoping to ease congestion, Yorkshire Police Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who had little experience policing soccer matches at Hillsborough, approved the opening of exit gate C at approximately 2:52 pm.

  • Some 2,000 fans entered through that gate, and, although the side pens were relatively empty, the majority headed to the main tunnel and the already crowded pens 3 and 4;
  • As fans rushed into those pens, a deadly crush resulted, with people frantically trying to escape;

A number of law officials initially believed the problem to be unruly fans, and it was not until five minutes after kickoff that the match was halted. However, police never “fully activated the major incident procedure. ” Poor communications and coordination further complicated rescue efforts, and in numerous cases fans provided assistance and medical attention.

  • In total 97 people were killed; one of the victims died in 1993 when he was taken off life support, and another with brain damage passed away in 2021;
  • In addition, more than 760 were injured;
  • Immediately after the disaster, police blamed the incident on Liverpool fans, whom they alleged were drunk and disorderly;

In addition, Duckenfield claimed that fans had forced open gate C. A 1989 interim report, however, faulted law officials, notably citing their failure to close the main tunnel after pens 3 and 4 reached capacity. The following year an inquest held that there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges.

  • The coroner’s report was released in 1991, and it stated that all those who died were beyond saving by 3:15 pm —when the first ambulance arrived—thus blocking an investigation into the rescue efforts;
  • In addition, the deaths were ruled accidental;

Calls continued for further investigations, and in 2009 an independent panel was formed to review the tragedy. Three years later it announced that the police had engaged in a far-reaching cover-up, faulting fans and falsifying reports in an effort to hide their own mistakes. New from Britannica The smell associated with rainfall is called petrichor ; the moisture causes bacteria in dry earth to release a molecule that human noses are very sensitive to. See All Good Facts Another inquest began in 2014, and the following year Duckenfield testified that he had lied about fans opening gate C, an allegation that been discredited years earlier but continued to be advanced. In addition, he admitted that his failure to close the main tunnel leading to the central pens directly caused the deaths.

The panel found no evidence that alcohol—or unruly behaviour—had played a role in the disaster, and it believed that as many as 41 deaths could have been averted by better rescue efforts. In December 2012 the coroner’s finding that the deaths were accidental was overturned.

In 2016 the jury found that the 96 victims had been “unlawfully killed. ” The following year criminal charges were filed against six individuals connected to the disaster. Notably, Duckenfield faced 95 charges of manslaughter; because of legal issues, he could not be prosecuted for the victim who died in 1993.

  1. Duckenfield went on trial in 2019, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict;
  2. A second trial was held later that year, and this time he was found not guilty;
  3. During this time other individuals were acquitted or had their charges dropped;

The only person convicted was Graham Mackrell, the stadium safety officer. In 2019 he was found guilty and fined for failing to provide an adequate number of turnstiles. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Subscribe Now Amy Tikkanen.

Who dropped the cigarette at Bradford?

A retired policeman says it ‘obviously troubled’ Australian visitor Eric Bennett that he accidentally caused the blaze which killed 59 people in 1985 Bradford Stadium Fire Man On Fire Tragedy: Crowds on the pitch at Bradford City’s Valley Parade stadium after the stand caught fire ( Image: Getty) The Bradford City fire was started by an Australian tourist who dropped a cigarette, according to a new TV documentary. Thirty years after the disaster, Eric Bennett, who has since died, has been named as the man who accidentally caused the blaze. He had travelled from Down Under to visit relatives in the UK. Retired Detective Inspector Raymond Falconer, who interviewed Mr Bennett at the time, said: “He said he’d been at the match, he’d been sat in the stand, right where we knew the seat of the fire had taken place.

“He said he smoked a cigarette, dropped the cigarette onto the floor in front of him, went to put his foot on it, but it had unfortunately dropped through, he said, a knot hole. ” Mourning: Tributes at the stadium after the fire in 1985 ( Image: Rex) Mr Bennett told officers that he tried to extinguish the fire by pouring coffee onto it but, within minutes, smoke and then flames took hold.

The spectator alerted a police officer and Mr Falconer said: “The policeman very quickly started to evacuate the stand. But the rest. Well, we know the tragic result of what happened. “The truth is, that he dropped a cigarette and he was quite unequivocal about it.

He’d dropped the cigarette that started the fire. ” He added: “He was obviously troubled. And I felt extremely sorry for him. And this would be weighing on his mind for the rest of his life. ” The blaze quickly engulfed the stand as Bradford played Lincoln City and claimed the lives of 59 people on May 11, 1985.

More than 200 people were taken to hospital, many with terrible injuries. An official inquiry into the tragedy, headed by Sir Oliver Popplewell , concluded that it was an accident and was probably started by a spectator dropping a cigarette into rubbish that had accumulated under an old timber stand.

  1. Inquiry: Sir Oliver Popplewell Police investigators reconstructed the seating area at a police station to work out where each spectator was sitting, and found that Mr Bennett, who was aged around 65 at the time, and his nephew Leslie Brownlie were sat ear the source of the blaze;
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The two men had travelled from Australia together, and stayed with relatives in Bradford. Police interviewed Mr Bennett twice, once the day after the disaster and again 10 days later, when Mr Falconer visited the house where he was staying. Mr Bennett and Mr Brownlie both gave evidence to the Popplewell Inquiry, describing how they saw the fire break out.

Mr Bennett apparently said that although he had been smoking during the match, he did not drop a lit cigarette which could have started the fire. He told the inquiry: “I just stood up and somebody said, whether it was me, my nephew or the other lad, ‘Oh there is a fire under there’ and I said, ‘There sure is, I’ll go and get a fire extinguisher’.

” In the meantime, Mr Brownlie ‘emptied about a quarter of a cup of coffee on the fire, which had no effect’, according to the report which was published at the end of the inquiry. Wreckage: The burnt-out remains of the stadium ( Image: Rex) In his own evidence, Mr Brownlie told the inquiry: “I felt my right leg was getting warm.

I bent down and said, ‘Hell, it’s warm down there’. I saw a fire. It appeared to be about nine inches below the boards. ” Sir Oliver Popplewell concluded: “It is quite impossible to determine who caused the fire to start; indeed it would be grossly unfair to point the finger at any one person.

‘ A new book by Martin Fletcher, whose father, brother, uncle and grandfather died in the blaze, has claimed the fire was was one of nine that occurred at businesses owned or linked to the club’s then chairman Stafford Heginbotham. But Sir Oliver Popplewell, speaking to the BBC , said: “I think the conclusion that this was arson is mistaken. ”

  • Missed Warnings: The Bradford City Fire will shown on BBC Two on Wednesday at 11:20pm.

Where was the football fire disaster?

Bradford City Fire – 30th Anniversay – This May will mark the 30 th anniversary of one of the UK’s worst fire disasters, when 56 people died at Bradford City’s football stadium. Over 250 other supporters from both Bradford City and Lincoln City were injured, many seriously.

There will be a service of civic remembrance, as well as other memorials – including at Bradford’s last home game of the season at Valley Parade against Barnsley on April 25 th. Funds raised will go to the University of Bradford Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit (PSBRU).

The memorials and fund-raising efforts are supported by The Football Association, The Premier League and the Football League. A minute’s silence will also be observed at football grounds across the country. The fire was most likely caused by a dropped cigarette or match falling into a void area beneath one of the ground’s stands, and soon engulfed the whole structure, including the roof. Worse, people had to break down locked exits to escape.

What happened at the Bradford City stadium fire?

A memorial in Bradford City Centre. The Bradford City stadium fire was an accidental conflagration which occurred during an English League Third Division match between Bradford City and Lincoln City on Saturday, 11 May 1985, killing 56 spectators in the stadium and injuring at least 265.

Why didn’t Bradford City have a designated stadium in 1985?

It wasn’t really the match itself that was the main attraction at the Valley Parade stadium on the 11th of May, 1985. Most of the spectators had turned up for the presentation that came first; Bradford City football club had enjoyed such success that season that they had already secured the Football League Third Division trophy.

It was the first trophy the team had won in over fifty years, and it brought more than eleven thousand people to the stands and terraces. There were also TV cameras there that day. The footage they captured would go on to make headlines – but not because of any sporting achievement.

Football – or soccer, for any Americans listening – is widely said to be Britain’s national sport. As such, there’s often fierce loyalty to local teams, even when they aren’t doing that well. Bradford City football club was founded in 1903, starting off in the Football League’s Second Division.

  1. They were promoted in 1908 and won the FA Cup in 1911- however, that was the peak of their success;
  2. After relegation in 1922, they wound up drifting between the third and fourth tiers of the league, and suffered severe financial hardships to boot;

In 1983, things got so bad that the receivers were called in, the club was put up for sale, and supporters contributed to a fund to save it. It was bought by Stafford Heginbotham, a former chairman of the club, and Jack Tordoff, a former board member. This allowed Bradford City to start a new league campaign, which led up to their successful 1984-85 season.

They enjoyed an unbroken run of thirteen winning games, and secured the club’s first championship title since 1929. Throughout this period, they played their home games at the Valley Parade stadium, which got its name from the way it was built into the side of a valley.

It was originally built as a rugby ground, and redesigned for Bradford City in 1908, and it hadn’t changed a great deal since then. The Midland Road stand was redeveloped in the fifties and sixties, but the Main Stand was essentially untouched. In his book, “56: The Story of the Bradford Fire”, Martin Fletcher described the stadium as it was in the eighties: “Once through the turnstiles of the Main Stand you found yourself in a low, dark, concrete corridor.

It was as narrow as a pavement, running the length of the stand. It can’t have been more than four feet across, bordered on the far side by a claret wooden wall, too high for a kid to see over… Each block’s stairwell cut a path down through the seats into what were effectively partitioned-off boxes.

There were only two small gaps… so unless you were at the bottom of the stairwells between blocks E and F, or blocks B and C, you’d have to come back up each stairwell to get out again. The seats themselves were effectively claret-painted planks of wood, suspended and supported by blocks of wood at either end and divided up by steel markers into individual bench seats.

The markers and the end blocks were nailed to some sturdy-looking wooden floorboards that had been laid over wooden sleepers set into the valley…” With those wooden benches, wooden walls, a wooden roof covered in layers of bitumen felt, all set on wooden sleepers, it was a somewhat ramshackle and rickety affair, described by one writer as being “like watching football from the cockpit of a Sopwith Camel.

” Still, there were plans for improvement; as they looked forward to their first Second Division matches in forty-eight years, they put forward plans to pull up the timber seats and floor, build new stairwells and gangways, new turnstiles and exits, shops, tea bars, a press room, new seating and terracing and much more.

It was a grand plan, and so soon after being forced into receivership it would be an expensive one, taking up the team’s entire budget for the next three seasons. However, on the 11th of May 1985, as fans crowded into the stands to see their team lift a trophy at last, that wasn’t something many of them were worried about.

They were just happy to see their team on the up. Fletcher, then just twelve years old, was in the stands that day, sitting in G Block alongside his brother, his father, uncle and grandfather. The presentation came first, and they “stood in proud salute, loudly applauding and cheering before the players disappeared into the clubhouse changing rooms.

” The players came back out to another standing ovation, before commencing what Fletcher described as “a dead rubber of a match. ” Shortly after half-time, he would later recall noticing as “the tiniest trail of mysterious white smoke began to rise from the front of our seating section.

” He joked out loud that it was a pity he’d just got back from the toilets, or he’d have been able to put it out. Other supporters nearby noticed, too, and in the style of true English football fans began to sing about it. “Bradford’s burning, Bradford’s burning, fetch the engines, fetch the engines…” But the jovial atmosphere didn’t last.

Karl Hepton, then only nine years old and watching from E Block, recalled, “It got much bigger very suddenly. People started to move away from the smoke, trying to get on to the pitch but the police told us to get to the back of the stand.

” As their section began to evacuate, Fletcher’s father told him to go ahead. Once in the corridor, however, there was no escaping the human traffic jam caused by the evacuation. “There was a solid wall of stationary people ahead of me. I’d assumed, as always, that it would ease.

  1. But the pressure started to tighten from behind as more and more people entered the corridor;
  2. By the time the game was stopped the whole of our rear section of G Block was in the corridor;
  3. ” At the turnstiles, he held back from the crowd surging ahead, trying to rejoin his family;

There was no way out there anyway; the doors were locked. “Then in an instant a blackness fell. I thought the lights had failed, but the darkness fell with such speed – it was too black, there was nothing, not even the daylight that should have shone through the turnstile door from the street behind.

” Paul Firth had also been watching from the stands near the fire’s origination point. “Once the black smoke had come in you couldn’t see anything but you could hear screams, you could hear people trying to kick at solid doors to get out, trying to escape from whatever route they could… I made the decision to go over the seats and climb down to the pitch… A police officer was shouting at us to get on the pitch, partly to clear the way for others but also because the heat was so intense.

” From near the turnstiles, Fletcher also heard someone shouting instructions to get to the pitch. “Nothing broke the blackness to my left, but to my right a narrow ray of light shone through the E block stairwell, the next one along. I ran for it… Free of the blackness, I exhaled, hoping to breathe in clear air.

  • But as I did so, my entire body, inside and out, was devoured by an indescribably painful venomous blast of furnace heat;
  • Stunned, I turned to my left to see an upturned waterfall of fire, with the whole of G Block – its base and parts of F Block – consumed by strips of fire;

The advancing wave of fire was racing down the roof to E Block, a narrow strip of flame already lapping the front row of the stairwell I’d have to race down… Something told me this was the only way out. ” As he raced down the stairwell, the fire swept overhead.

He made it into the lower half of the stand, but the roof here was burning too, and he could see ahead of him a grown man struggling to scale a wall at the pitch side. He didn’t at the time realise that he was on the brink of becoming a human torch.

Molten tar from the roof had dripped down onto his jacket, scarf and hat. Another fan grabbed the boy and threw him bodily over the wall onto the pitch. Another took off his jacket and used it to beat out the flames, and others dragged him away from the stand.

“These people had all gone to a football match, like we had, to watch their team lift a trophy. But many reacted in that sudden hell, to save lives. They were the heroes of the Bradford fire, unsung. ” Meanwhile, Hepton and his grandmother Nellie, 64 years old, had also found themselves jammed into the corridor at the back.

An unidentified man pulled them out of the crush and into a kiosk. “It was grey and I could see the pitch for the first time in what seemed like an age. The man who had grabbed us then smashed a window at the front of the kiosk which was going to be our only way out.

My grandma picked me up and dangled me over the window ledge and lowered me down towards the seats. “She told me, ‘Run! Run!’ And so I did. I ran jumping over the flip-up seats, not looking back. At one point I got my foot caught in one of the seats and started to really panic.

Everywhere was red hot. My scalp was in pain from drops of melted tarpaulin and I had to pull my red ski jacket over my hands to stop them from burning. ” He thought his grandmother would be right behind him – but she wasn’t. Although he would later be reunited with his father, who had been sitting in A Block further away from the fire, it was two days before it could be confirmed that Nellie was among the dead.

  • Martin Fletcher was at first reassured by police officers and nurses who told him that everybody had been evacuated, but after two days the rest of his family were also identified by their belongings – his father’s watch and engagement ring, and a scrap of his brother’s jacket which had survived because it had been held so tightly by their grandfather – and by their dental records;

Greg Abbott, who was one of the players that day, recalled being ushered away to a pub with the other players once the firemen had taken over, and there being told at first that nobody had died. “Then someone came in and said there had been a fatality. Your heart sank.

  • Then there was news of another;
  • That number eventually got to 56;
  • You appreciated then how horrendous this had been;
  • And the more you think of it, you can’t help but wonder how it wasn’t so much more;
  • ” Colin Brazier was in the standing area at the opposite end of the main stand to the fire – but that was still close enough for him to be caught up in the panic;

As the crowd surged away from the heat, he was wedged against a wall until somebody pulled him over onto the pitch. Unlike others, he was almost immediately aware of the severity of the disaster. “Running towards the centre circle I became aware of two things; an old man gazing out from the centre of the grandstand, standing stock-still, looking out towards me, just before blazing timbers fell and entombed him.

  • The other thing was the noise;
  • The sheer, deafening din of a huge fire;
  • TV pictures of the Valley Parade disaster communicate many things – terror, pathos, loss – but they never get across the sheer volume of that hideous inferno;

” He recalled seeing the body of a middle aged lady lying between the goal posts. “I cannot remember her face, but I do remember the way her tights and clothing had warped like burned plastic. As I headed into town, I noticed an elderly man in front of me with terrible burns to the back of his neck and ears.

He was walking as if oblivious to his injuries, perhaps in shock, perhaps simply symbolic of an older, stoical generation who did not like to make a fuss, however justified. ” Brenda Verity was the sister in charge at Bradford Royal Infirmary that day; she recalled that they received 250 injured people in the space of about five minutes.

Some arrived by ambulance, but others were ferried there by any means available. Some even walked. “People were walking with their hands on their heads which we couldn’t understand. Then we found out that the tarmac from the top of the stand was melting and hitting them on the heads.

  1. So people had put their hands on their heads and come into the hospital still doing that;
  2. ” Although the game came to a halt, the cameras continued to roll;
  3. This footage can still be found online today; it is graphic and upsetting, but it is also often used in fire prevention training, as a demonstration of how quickly fire can spread;

From the moment the camera catches the first glimpse of a flame flickering in the stands, it takes just a minute and a half for the fire to spread throughout the back half of G Block, and the smoke to reach halfway along the stand. One minute and forty five seconds in, the flames start to engulf the roof.

Three minutes in, the flames literally consume the entire stand. Black smoke billows high into the air, and many people are obviously injured, including one policeman seen with his head on fire. However, many of the fans on the pitch are still cheering and singing, obviously not realising the scale of the tragedy unfolding behind them.

Bear in mind that even Martin Fletcher, who ran through the burning stand, recalled asking someone on the pitch if they thought the second half would start soon. It was simply happening too quickly for people to take it in. Four and a half minutes in, John Helm, commentating for YTV, calls the scene “a burning hell” before the camera turns to the horrific sight of a man fully engulfed in flame, walking slowly away from the stand.

Police officers and other fans beat the flames out with their coats and carry him away, but he would later be confirmed among the dead. Five minutes in, you can hear the stand beginning to collapse. Once the fire was extinguished, and all that remained of the stand was charred ruins,thoughts turned quickly to the questions: why had so many died, and how had the fire started in the first place? When the fire began, the police officers who first responded to it seemed to think it would be easily dealt with.

They evacuated the immediate area, G Block, into the rear corridor so that they’d have room to tackle it. At this point, everybody thought that they’d soon be back in their seats. However, the speed with which the fire spread took them by surprise. Within mere moments, they were cut off from the pitch, and their options for escape at the back were shockingly limited.

According to plans of the stand, there were gates at the rear of G Block. However, nobody in the main stand would expect to use them. According to Fletcher, they were behind a panel door, and provided an exit mainly for the terrace.

“You couldn’t reach Gate S from the rear corridor of the stand during the game – you couldn’t have the terrace hardcore wandering into the more expensive seats after all!” For this reason, those evacuated from G Block would have turned away from Gate S.

Moving along the stand, away from the seat of the fire, they would pass the entry turnstiles, which were locked as they weren’t intended as an exit. There were also several single exit doors along the corridor, but these had been boarded up at some time in the past.

The inquiry heard testimony that one of these doors had recently been unblocked, however the three witnesses who spoke about this each identified a different door, so whether that’s true remains uncertain. The most obvious exit to use would be Gate K; halfway along the stand, this would be where they’d expect to leave at the end of the game.

However, it was locked. It was common – and accepted – practice to keep these gates locked until the game was most of the way through, so that people couldn’t sneak in without paying. Many of the victims didn’t make it past this point.

Past Gate K, there were more locked turnstiles, further boarded up single exit doors, and eventually, at the back of A Block, Gate E, and at the end of A Block, Gate B, which was the clubhouse gate. Gate E appears to have been the first exit opened. The second exit opened was Gate S, the one at the back of G Block but separated from it; this allowed people in the terrace to exit, but those who’d left their seats in G Block would have already passed it – going back to it would have meant going back towards the fire.

It seems to be unclear when exactly Gate B was opened, but it did open, allowing the crowd to exit through three gates. However, the gate that was most important – the gate that should have provided an exit for those in the first blocks consumed by the fire – was the last to open.

The inquiry heard from Sergeant Hendrick, one of the police officers on duty that day, that he saw those doors bulging from the pressure of people behind them, and desperate pleas and banging coming from within. Fans alongside him on the outside of the stand said the doors had to come off, and they pulled at the bottom of the doors until they came off their hinges.

  • This, sadly, happened too late for at least 15 people who would later be found dead behind or close to those doors;
  • As to how the fire started, despite initial allegations that a smoke bomb had been thrown, it was generally accepted quite quickly that it had been an accident;

The stands were wooden, and had plenty of holes in them. In the gaps underneath, rubbish could easily accumulate. Peter Jackson, who had been on the pitch as a player that day, recalled, “During my two years as an apprentice at Bradford City, one of the jobs we had to do after every match was clear the main stand of all the litter left by spectators.

  • It was an old, dilapidated wooden stand that was built in 1908 and had long since seen better days;
  • There were holes in the floor, under the rows of seats and on the stairways;
  • And when we were clearing, we’d just brush everything down those holes;

For years, generations of apprentices had done exactly the same thing so you can imagine how much rubbish had piled up down there under that old wooden stand. It was a tinderbox. All it needed was a stray cigarette down one of those holes and whoosh. ” Based on photographs taken in the stand, it was possible for investigators to pinpoint where exactly the fire had started.

  1. Interviews with survivors identified two men who had been sitting there, an uncle and nephew visiting from Australia;
  2. Investigator Raymond Falconer related his eventual meeting with one of those men;
  3. “Before we’d had a chance to introduce ourselves, he simply says, “I’ve been waiting for you;

“… He said he smoked a cigarette, dropped the cigarette onto the floor in front of him, went to put his foot on it but it had unfortunately dropped through, he said, a knothole. ” He told investigators that he’d tried to put the fire out by pouring his coffee on it, but the smoke returned, and then they saw flames.

  • “So they rushed to the back of the stand, got hold of some policemen, told them what was happening… The truth is that he dropped a cigarette and he was quite unequivocal about it, he dropped the cigarette that started the fire;

” Authorities demonstrably knew that the stand was a fire risk. A year before the fire, some wood had fallen from the roof of the Main Stand during a match, necessitating repairs. The club had applied for a grant from the Football Grounds Improvement Trust, which required supporting documentation from the local authority, so on the 4th of July 1984 a structural engineer from West Yorkshire County Council visited the ground.

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The engineer, Andrew Shaw, not only wrote the supporting letter that the club wanted for their grant application, but also a second letter, sent to the West Yorkshire deputy fire prevention officer as well as the club.

With regards to the Main Grandstand, it said: “The unusual construction of this stand makes an appraisal of structural adequacy desirable. The timber construction is a fire hazard and in particular there is a build up of combustible materials in the voids beneath the seats.

A carelessly discarded cigarette could give rise to a fire risk. Egress from the grandstand should be in 2. 5 minutes. ” Thirty years after the fire, speaking to a BBC reporter, Tordoff claimed that they hadn’t been aware of these warnings; he said that they’d been sent to the previous board.

However, the date on the letter indicates that this isn’t the case. Although the accidental cigarette theory is officially accepted, not everyone was convinced. Martin Fletcher put forward some compelling arguments for an alternate explanation in his book.

He wrote that it was his mother who first suggested it to him, saying, “Well, you know it wasn’t Stafford Heginbotham’s first fire, don’t you?” On the 31st of May 1985, journalist Paul Foot wrote an article in The Mirror with the headline, “FIRE JINX IN BRADFORD”.

In it, he stated that, “at least five fires have damaged premises owned by or connected with Mr Heginbotham or his companies”; one, in November 1977, had resulted in an insurance payout of £174,663 for fire damage and loss of profits. Thirty years after the fire, and after the publication of Fletcher’s book, a BBC report noted that in total eight such fires had occurred between 1967 and 1981.

In the same programme, Tordoff acknowledged this. “He were a likeable rogue, Stafford, and if there were a fire they used to attach Stafford’s name to it, Stafford must’ve walked past it, only joking, like… but I couldn’t imagine Stafford lighting a fire.

” Fletcher doesn’t actually go so far as to make any specific allegations, and Stafford Heginbotham, who passed away in 1995, was never charged with anything in connection with any of those fires. His family called the suggestion ridiculous and diabolical.

However, the implications are clear. One fire is bad luck; but nine? Even if you take the view that they were all coincidence, you might think that a man with so much personal experience of fires should perhaps have paid more attention to the warnings the club received.

The idea that the fire could have been deliberate, at a time when the team was on the up, may seem counter-intuitive. The thing is, their success was about to be very expensive, and this comes down to the state of the stadium, the regulations in place at the time, and their long-awaited promotion back to the Second Division.

  1. The Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 laid out the requirements for safety at large sporting grounds; “large” being defined as any sports ground which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, “has accommodation for more than 10,000 spectators;

” Any venue designated as a large sporting ground under this Act had to have safety certificates that showed it was in line with the recommended practices in The Green Guide, formally known as The Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds. The Valley Parade stadium could easily hold more than 10,000 people; they had played for 23,000 fans during the FA Cup season of 1970.

However, ten years after the introduction of the Safety at Sports Grounds Act, the Main Stand at Valley Parade didn’t meet those standards. It hadn’t needed to; it was still undesignated. The Act was intended to be phased in to allow clubs time to finance improvements; by 1979 it applied to all First and Second Division football grounds.

However, changes in government had delayed its extension, and at the time of the fire in 1985 it still hadn’t been extended to third division clubs like Bradford City. Their promotion to the Second Division, therefore, meant things were about to change; the Act was about to start applying to them, and their stadium would be designated.

  1. The improvements needed to get those safety certificates would be very expensive, the local authority could insist that they were made before the next season began, and it doesn’t seem clear how they would be able to finance it;

They had, after all, been in receivership less than two years before. Just one year before the fire, they’d appealed – unsuccessfully – for local companies to advertise on the stand’s roof to pay for its repairs. It was only after that failed that they got the council’s structural engineer to support their grant application to cover those costs, resulting in the letter I mentioned earlier.

In the aftermath of the fire, the main stand at Valley Parade was completely rebuilt – and it was largely public money that paid for it. West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council gave the club £1. 4 million pounds, and they received further funds from the Football Trust and their insurer.

In total, they actually received £200,000 more than they needed – and an awful lot more than the £400,000 that had been mooted as the original cost of the necessary improvements. The Sunwin Stand at the Coral Windows Stadium, home of Bradford City FC. Saturday 9th February 2008. Source: Wikimedia Commons Fletcher also points out that the investigation into the fire appeared rushed. On the 13th of May – the first working day after the fire – the then Home Secretary Leon Brittan announced that there would be an inquiry, to investigate the Bradford fire jointly with another incident which had happened the same day at a Birmingham City match, where a collapsing wall had killed one fan.

  • However, such an inquiry was only supposed to be held if Parliament had “clearly considered whether or not civil or criminal proceedings would resolve the matter and decided they would not;
  • ” It’s hard to imagine how anyone could come to such a conclusion so quickly;

The media coverage was full of speculation that a deliberate act could have started the fire; the front page of the Liverpool Echo that day declared, “Smoke bombs were thrown at Bradford City football ground on Saturday before its main stand became an inferno.

  1. ” However, the inquiry, under Sir Oliver Popplewell, would commence just thirteen working days after the forensic search of the site was completed, leaving little time for in-depth analysis, and it took just five and a half days to hear the evidence;

Popplewell himself said, on the Tuesday after the fire, while visiting the site, “It’s not a lawsuit in which one party wins and another loses. It’s a factual exercise. Blame will not be apportioned. ” The inquiry resulted in a ban of new wooden stands at British football grounds, the immediate closure of a number of stands considered to be unsafe, and a ban on smoking in other wooden stands.

  • But it didn’t hold anyone responsible;
  • In July of 1985, an inquest into the deaths at Valley Parade returned a verdict of death by misadventure;
  • Following this, Fletcher’s mother Susan and police sergeant David Britton, who had served on the fateful day, brought a test case against the club;

On the 23rd February 1987, Sir Joseph Cantley delivered a verdict which held the club two thirds responsible, and the county council one third responsible, on the grounds of negligence. He said, “It is only right that I should say that I think it would be unfair to conclude that Mr Heginbotham, Mr Tordoff, the Board of Directors, or any of them, were intentionally and callously indifferent to the safety of spectators using the stand.

They were at fault, but the fault was that no-one in authority seems ever to have properly appreciated the real gravity of this fire hazard and consequently no-one gave it the attention it certainly ought to have received.

” This meant that, although the families did receive compensation, no individuals were really held accountable. In 2015, after Martin Fletcher’s book was published, there was a call for a new inquiry. However, the Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled that out, saying that there was “no indication of potential misconduct by individual police officers”.

  1. In the end, the Bradford City Stadium fire was the result of a litany of missed warnings;
  2. It was clear that the stand was a fire risk; the club and local authority clearly knew that it needed improvements, even the fans who filled it could see the danger;

This was all somehow ignored, put off, filed as something to sort out later. The safety of spectators in the sports grounds of the lower divisions was just not made a priority until it was too late. One of the worst things about this tragedy is the fact that it could have prevented a future disaster, if only someone had been listening.

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, it was pointed out that many of the supporters had escaped the flames by climbing out of the stands and onto the pitch. However, because of the issues surrounding football hooliganism at the time, there was also a growing trend for stadiums to have high fences penning the supporters in and keeping them off the pitch.

If those fences had been in place at Valley Parade, the number of casualties would have been much, much higher. The Newcastle Evening Chronicle on the 13th of May 1985 noted this, leading with the headline, “Soccer Fences: Are They Madness?” Unfortunately, the focus remained on the fact that it was a wooden stand that had caught fire, with little attention paid to the difficulty of evacuating the stands quickly in an emergency.

Four years later, Martin Fletcher had become a season ticket holder for his new home city’s team, Nottingham Forest. That brought him to Sheffield for the FA Cup Semi-Final against Liverpool at Hillsborough Stadium.

There, he found himself once more a witness to catastrophe, unable to do anything as 96 people were crushed to death in the stands at the opposite end. They were unable to escape, because of the high fences which penned them in.

Did the Bradford City fire start by a cigarette?

References [ edit ] –

  1. ^ Frost 1988 , p. 53
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b c Frost 1988 , p. 54
  3. ^ Frost 1988 , p. 55
  4. ^ Jump up to: a b Inglis 1987 , p. 117
  5. ^ Inglis 1987 , p. 118
  6. ^ Inglis 1987 , p. 119
  7. ^ Frost 1988 , pp. 36–37
  8. ^ Jump up to: a b c d Inglis 1987 , p. 120
  9. ^ Frost 1988 , p. 373
  10. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f g h i j k l Inglis 1987 , p. 361
  11. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f g Pithers, Malcolm (13 May 1985). “Hideous images linger after carnage of ‘celebration’ day”. The Guardian. Archived from the original on 5 December 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2008.
  12. ^ Shaw, Phil (11 May 2005). “Bradford City: After the fire”. The Independent. Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
  13. ^ Greg Struthers (1 May 2005). “Caught in Time: Bradford City win the Third Division, 1985”. The Times. Archived from the original on 15 May 2009.
  14. ^ Jump up to: a b “Bradford Fire Disaster”. Bradford City A. Archived from the original on 16 February 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  15. ^ Jump up to: a b c Scrivener, Peter (11 May 2005). “Bradford remembers fire disaster”. BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
  16. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f “Fans killed in Bradford stadium fire”. BBC News. 11 May 1985. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2008.
  17. ^ Squires, Neil (23 April 2015). “EXCLUSIVE: Bradford’s Valley Parade fire must be remembered like Hillsborough”. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  18. ^ Inglis 1987 , p. 362
  19. ^ Jump up to: a b Logan, Gabby (12 May 2003). “Day that will live with me forever”. The Times. London. Archived from the original on 15 May 2009. Retrieved 6 December 2008.
  20. ^ “In memoriam”. Bradford City A. Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2008.
  21. ^ “History of The Bradford Sling® – The Bradford Sling”. Archived from the original on 1 April 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  22. ^ [Further details on the Bradford sling]
  23. ^ “Bradford City football stadium blaze surgeon honoured”. BBC News. 26 April 2014. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  24. ^ “Research centre to be living memorial to Bradford City FC fire disaster”. Labmate Online. 7 September 2010. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
  25. ^ “The Papers of the Popplewell Inquiry into Crowd Safety at Sports Grounds”. Library. University of Bradford. 13 December 2007. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 24 July 2008.
  26. ^ “Popplewell Inquiry – Bradford City Fire”. Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  27. ^ Jump up to: a b “Bradford remembered: The unheeded warnings that led to tragedy”. The Guardian. 11 May 2010. Archived from the original on 26 August 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  28. ^ Joseph Canley summing up statement from test case court transcripts Archived 25 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Newspaper report from Sport and the Law April 21st 1989 Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ “The Glasgow Herald – Google News Archive Search”. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  31. ^ Jump up to: a b “The Glasgow Herald – Google News Archive Search”. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  32. ^ “The Hour – Google News Archive Search”. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  33. ^ Los Angeles Times report on Bradford City test case findings Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ “The Glasgow Herald – Google News Archive Search”. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  35. ^ Court transcript from the test case brought by Susan Fletcher and Others against Bradford City and Others Archived 25 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ “The Glasgow Herald – Google News Archive Search”. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  37. ^ Conn, David (20 October 2011). “Bradford fire survivor attacks judge over Hillsborough comments”. The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 August 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  38. ^ Fletcher, Martin (15 April 2015). “The Story of the Bradford Fire: ‘could any man really be as unlucky as Stafford Heginbotham?’ “. The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 April 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  39. ^ Bradford City Fire Website messages of condolence from around the world Archived 11 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ Scrivener, Peter (11 May 2005). “Survivors relive lucky escapes”. BBC Sport. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  41. ^ Scrivener, Peter (7 May 2005). “A story of courage and heroism”. BBC Sport. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  42. ^ The Crowd’s You’ll Never Walk Alone Archived 11 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ “Chuckle Brothers’ single for Bradford City fire anniversary”. BBC News. 25 March 2015. Archived from the original on 7 December 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  44. ^ Compare with how, after Coventry Cathedral burned down in a Second World War air raid , someone made a replacement cross for it out of two charred beams tied with wire.
  45. ^ Jump up to: a b “No. 50531”. The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 May 1986. pp. 7213–7214.
  46. ^ “We’ve Met (Bradford) Before”. Lincoln City F. 23 December 2008. Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 23 December 2008.
  47. ^ ” ‘The 56’ Mission Statement – FYSA Theatre”. Archived from the original on 17 June 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  48. ^ “Bradford City stadium fire: The untold stories of the 1985 fire”. The Independent. 9 May 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  49. ^ “Emotive play of Bradford City fire disaster raises cash for burns unit”. Archived from the original on 1 April 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  50. ^ Firth, Paul (31 March 2017). Four Minutes to Hell: The Story of the Bradford City Fire. Parrs Wood Press. ISBN   9781903158739. Retrieved 31 March 2017 – via Google Books.
  51. ^ “Book Review: Four Minutes to Hell: The Story of the Bradford City Fire by Paul Firth – football book reviews”. Archived from the original on 1 April 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  52. ^ Bloomsbury. com. “Fifty-Six”. Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  53. ^ “Football Focus 1st May 2010 Bradford City Part 1”. 2 May 2010. Archived from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017 – via YouTube.
  54. ^ Bradford City – A year of healing Documentary Archived 18 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  55. ^ Taylor, Daniel (22 April 2015). “Bradford fire: expert demands new investigation into blaze”. The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 April 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  56. ^ “Bradford City stadium fire 1985 – IPCC investigation decision”. Archived from the original on 15 February 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  57. ^ “BRADFORD CITY FIRE: Accidental cause of tragedy ‘not in any doubt’, says detective”. Telegraph and Argus. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  58. ^ “Bradford City fire ‘started by cigarette’ “. BBC News. 12 May 2015. Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  59. ^ “Bradford City fire: Briton attacks ‘inaccurate’ BBC documentary claiming his uncle started blaze”. The Daily Telegraph. 12 May 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  60. ^ Taylor, Daniel (27 April 2015). “Bradford fire: Sir Oliver Popplewell defends 1985 inquiry – interview in full”. The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 April 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.

Why did Bradford City need an extension to the fire Act?

It wasn’t really the match itself that was the main attraction at the Valley Parade stadium on the 11th of May, 1985. Most of the spectators had turned up for the presentation that came first; Bradford City football club had enjoyed such success that season that they had already secured the Football League Third Division trophy.

It was the first trophy the team had won in over fifty years, and it brought more than eleven thousand people to the stands and terraces. There were also TV cameras there that day. The footage they captured would go on to make headlines – but not because of any sporting achievement.

Football – or soccer, for any Americans listening – is widely said to be Britain’s national sport. As such, there’s often fierce loyalty to local teams, even when they aren’t doing that well. Bradford City football club was founded in 1903, starting off in the Football League’s Second Division.

They were promoted in 1908 and won the FA Cup in 1911- however, that was the peak of their success. After relegation in 1922, they wound up drifting between the third and fourth tiers of the league, and suffered severe financial hardships to boot.

In 1983, things got so bad that the receivers were called in, the club was put up for sale, and supporters contributed to a fund to save it. It was bought by Stafford Heginbotham, a former chairman of the club, and Jack Tordoff, a former board member. This allowed Bradford City to start a new league campaign, which led up to their successful 1984-85 season.

They enjoyed an unbroken run of thirteen winning games, and secured the club’s first championship title since 1929. Throughout this period, they played their home games at the Valley Parade stadium, which got its name from the way it was built into the side of a valley.

It was originally built as a rugby ground, and redesigned for Bradford City in 1908, and it hadn’t changed a great deal since then. The Midland Road stand was redeveloped in the fifties and sixties, but the Main Stand was essentially untouched. In his book, “56: The Story of the Bradford Fire”, Martin Fletcher described the stadium as it was in the eighties: “Once through the turnstiles of the Main Stand you found yourself in a low, dark, concrete corridor.

It was as narrow as a pavement, running the length of the stand. It can’t have been more than four feet across, bordered on the far side by a claret wooden wall, too high for a kid to see over… Each block’s stairwell cut a path down through the seats into what were effectively partitioned-off boxes.

There were only two small gaps… so unless you were at the bottom of the stairwells between blocks E and F, or blocks B and C, you’d have to come back up each stairwell to get out again. The seats themselves were effectively claret-painted planks of wood, suspended and supported by blocks of wood at either end and divided up by steel markers into individual bench seats.

  • The markers and the end blocks were nailed to some sturdy-looking wooden floorboards that had been laid over wooden sleepers set into the valley…” With those wooden benches, wooden walls, a wooden roof covered in layers of bitumen felt, all set on wooden sleepers, it was a somewhat ramshackle and rickety affair, described by one writer as being “like watching football from the cockpit of a Sopwith Camel;

” Still, there were plans for improvement; as they looked forward to their first Second Division matches in forty-eight years, they put forward plans to pull up the timber seats and floor, build new stairwells and gangways, new turnstiles and exits, shops, tea bars, a press room, new seating and terracing and much more.

  1. It was a grand plan, and so soon after being forced into receivership it would be an expensive one, taking up the team’s entire budget for the next three seasons;
  2. However, on the 11th of May 1985, as fans crowded into the stands to see their team lift a trophy at last, that wasn’t something many of them were worried about;

They were just happy to see their team on the up. Fletcher, then just twelve years old, was in the stands that day, sitting in G Block alongside his brother, his father, uncle and grandfather. The presentation came first, and they “stood in proud salute, loudly applauding and cheering before the players disappeared into the clubhouse changing rooms.

” The players came back out to another standing ovation, before commencing what Fletcher described as “a dead rubber of a match. ” Shortly after half-time, he would later recall noticing as “the tiniest trail of mysterious white smoke began to rise from the front of our seating section.

” He joked out loud that it was a pity he’d just got back from the toilets, or he’d have been able to put it out. Other supporters nearby noticed, too, and in the style of true English football fans began to sing about it. “Bradford’s burning, Bradford’s burning, fetch the engines, fetch the engines…” But the jovial atmosphere didn’t last.

  • Karl Hepton, then only nine years old and watching from E Block, recalled, “It got much bigger very suddenly;
  • People started to move away from the smoke, trying to get on to the pitch but the police told us to get to the back of the stand;

” As their section began to evacuate, Fletcher’s father told him to go ahead. Once in the corridor, however, there was no escaping the human traffic jam caused by the evacuation. “There was a solid wall of stationary people ahead of me. I’d assumed, as always, that it would ease.

  1. But the pressure started to tighten from behind as more and more people entered the corridor;
  2. By the time the game was stopped the whole of our rear section of G Block was in the corridor;
  3. ” At the turnstiles, he held back from the crowd surging ahead, trying to rejoin his family;

There was no way out there anyway; the doors were locked. “Then in an instant a blackness fell. I thought the lights had failed, but the darkness fell with such speed – it was too black, there was nothing, not even the daylight that should have shone through the turnstile door from the street behind.

” Paul Firth had also been watching from the stands near the fire’s origination point. “Once the black smoke had come in you couldn’t see anything but you could hear screams, you could hear people trying to kick at solid doors to get out, trying to escape from whatever route they could… I made the decision to go over the seats and climb down to the pitch… A police officer was shouting at us to get on the pitch, partly to clear the way for others but also because the heat was so intense.

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” From near the turnstiles, Fletcher also heard someone shouting instructions to get to the pitch. “Nothing broke the blackness to my left, but to my right a narrow ray of light shone through the E block stairwell, the next one along. I ran for it… Free of the blackness, I exhaled, hoping to breathe in clear air.

But as I did so, my entire body, inside and out, was devoured by an indescribably painful venomous blast of furnace heat. Stunned, I turned to my left to see an upturned waterfall of fire, with the whole of G Block – its base and parts of F Block – consumed by strips of fire.

The advancing wave of fire was racing down the roof to E Block, a narrow strip of flame already lapping the front row of the stairwell I’d have to race down… Something told me this was the only way out. ” As he raced down the stairwell, the fire swept overhead.

He made it into the lower half of the stand, but the roof here was burning too, and he could see ahead of him a grown man struggling to scale a wall at the pitch side. He didn’t at the time realise that he was on the brink of becoming a human torch.

Molten tar from the roof had dripped down onto his jacket, scarf and hat. Another fan grabbed the boy and threw him bodily over the wall onto the pitch. Another took off his jacket and used it to beat out the flames, and others dragged him away from the stand.

  1. “These people had all gone to a football match, like we had, to watch their team lift a trophy;
  2. But many reacted in that sudden hell, to save lives;
  3. They were the heroes of the Bradford fire, unsung;
  4. ” Meanwhile, Hepton and his grandmother Nellie, 64 years old, had also found themselves jammed into the corridor at the back;

An unidentified man pulled them out of the crush and into a kiosk. “It was grey and I could see the pitch for the first time in what seemed like an age. The man who had grabbed us then smashed a window at the front of the kiosk which was going to be our only way out.

  1. My grandma picked me up and dangled me over the window ledge and lowered me down towards the seats;
  2. “She told me, ‘Run! Run!’ And so I did;
  3. I ran jumping over the flip-up seats, not looking back;
  4. At one point I got my foot caught in one of the seats and started to really panic;

Everywhere was red hot. My scalp was in pain from drops of melted tarpaulin and I had to pull my red ski jacket over my hands to stop them from burning. ” He thought his grandmother would be right behind him – but she wasn’t. Although he would later be reunited with his father, who had been sitting in A Block further away from the fire, it was two days before it could be confirmed that Nellie was among the dead.

  • Martin Fletcher was at first reassured by police officers and nurses who told him that everybody had been evacuated, but after two days the rest of his family were also identified by their belongings – his father’s watch and engagement ring, and a scrap of his brother’s jacket which had survived because it had been held so tightly by their grandfather – and by their dental records;

Greg Abbott, who was one of the players that day, recalled being ushered away to a pub with the other players once the firemen had taken over, and there being told at first that nobody had died. “Then someone came in and said there had been a fatality. Your heart sank.

Then there was news of another. That number eventually got to 56. You appreciated then how horrendous this had been. And the more you think of it, you can’t help but wonder how it wasn’t so much more. ” Colin Brazier was in the standing area at the opposite end of the main stand to the fire – but that was still close enough for him to be caught up in the panic.

As the crowd surged away from the heat, he was wedged against a wall until somebody pulled him over onto the pitch. Unlike others, he was almost immediately aware of the severity of the disaster. “Running towards the centre circle I became aware of two things; an old man gazing out from the centre of the grandstand, standing stock-still, looking out towards me, just before blazing timbers fell and entombed him.

  • The other thing was the noise;
  • The sheer, deafening din of a huge fire;
  • TV pictures of the Valley Parade disaster communicate many things – terror, pathos, loss – but they never get across the sheer volume of that hideous inferno;

” He recalled seeing the body of a middle aged lady lying between the goal posts. “I cannot remember her face, but I do remember the way her tights and clothing had warped like burned plastic. As I headed into town, I noticed an elderly man in front of me with terrible burns to the back of his neck and ears.

He was walking as if oblivious to his injuries, perhaps in shock, perhaps simply symbolic of an older, stoical generation who did not like to make a fuss, however justified. ” Brenda Verity was the sister in charge at Bradford Royal Infirmary that day; she recalled that they received 250 injured people in the space of about five minutes.

Some arrived by ambulance, but others were ferried there by any means available. Some even walked. “People were walking with their hands on their heads which we couldn’t understand. Then we found out that the tarmac from the top of the stand was melting and hitting them on the heads.

So people had put their hands on their heads and come into the hospital still doing that. ” Although the game came to a halt, the cameras continued to roll. This footage can still be found online today; it is graphic and upsetting, but it is also often used in fire prevention training, as a demonstration of how quickly fire can spread.

From the moment the camera catches the first glimpse of a flame flickering in the stands, it takes just a minute and a half for the fire to spread throughout the back half of G Block, and the smoke to reach halfway along the stand. One minute and forty five seconds in, the flames start to engulf the roof.

Three minutes in, the flames literally consume the entire stand. Black smoke billows high into the air, and many people are obviously injured, including one policeman seen with his head on fire. However, many of the fans on the pitch are still cheering and singing, obviously not realising the scale of the tragedy unfolding behind them.

Bear in mind that even Martin Fletcher, who ran through the burning stand, recalled asking someone on the pitch if they thought the second half would start soon. It was simply happening too quickly for people to take it in. Four and a half minutes in, John Helm, commentating for YTV, calls the scene “a burning hell” before the camera turns to the horrific sight of a man fully engulfed in flame, walking slowly away from the stand.

  • Police officers and other fans beat the flames out with their coats and carry him away, but he would later be confirmed among the dead;
  • Five minutes in, you can hear the stand beginning to collapse;
  • Once the fire was extinguished, and all that remained of the stand was charred ruins,thoughts turned quickly to the questions: why had so many died, and how had the fire started in the first place? When the fire began, the police officers who first responded to it seemed to think it would be easily dealt with;

They evacuated the immediate area, G Block, into the rear corridor so that they’d have room to tackle it. At this point, everybody thought that they’d soon be back in their seats. However, the speed with which the fire spread took them by surprise. Within mere moments, they were cut off from the pitch, and their options for escape at the back were shockingly limited.

  1. According to plans of the stand, there were gates at the rear of G Block;
  2. However, nobody in the main stand would expect to use them;
  3. According to Fletcher, they were behind a panel door, and provided an exit mainly for the terrace;

“You couldn’t reach Gate S from the rear corridor of the stand during the game – you couldn’t have the terrace hardcore wandering into the more expensive seats after all!” For this reason, those evacuated from G Block would have turned away from Gate S.

Moving along the stand, away from the seat of the fire, they would pass the entry turnstiles, which were locked as they weren’t intended as an exit. There were also several single exit doors along the corridor, but these had been boarded up at some time in the past.

The inquiry heard testimony that one of these doors had recently been unblocked, however the three witnesses who spoke about this each identified a different door, so whether that’s true remains uncertain. The most obvious exit to use would be Gate K; halfway along the stand, this would be where they’d expect to leave at the end of the game.

  1. However, it was locked;
  2. It was common – and accepted – practice to keep these gates locked until the game was most of the way through, so that people couldn’t sneak in without paying;
  3. Many of the victims didn’t make it past this point;

Past Gate K, there were more locked turnstiles, further boarded up single exit doors, and eventually, at the back of A Block, Gate E, and at the end of A Block, Gate B, which was the clubhouse gate. Gate E appears to have been the first exit opened. The second exit opened was Gate S, the one at the back of G Block but separated from it; this allowed people in the terrace to exit, but those who’d left their seats in G Block would have already passed it – going back to it would have meant going back towards the fire.

  • It seems to be unclear when exactly Gate B was opened, but it did open, allowing the crowd to exit through three gates;
  • However, the gate that was most important – the gate that should have provided an exit for those in the first blocks consumed by the fire – was the last to open;

The inquiry heard from Sergeant Hendrick, one of the police officers on duty that day, that he saw those doors bulging from the pressure of people behind them, and desperate pleas and banging coming from within. Fans alongside him on the outside of the stand said the doors had to come off, and they pulled at the bottom of the doors until they came off their hinges.

  • This, sadly, happened too late for at least 15 people who would later be found dead behind or close to those doors;
  • As to how the fire started, despite initial allegations that a smoke bomb had been thrown, it was generally accepted quite quickly that it had been an accident;

The stands were wooden, and had plenty of holes in them. In the gaps underneath, rubbish could easily accumulate. Peter Jackson, who had been on the pitch as a player that day, recalled, “During my two years as an apprentice at Bradford City, one of the jobs we had to do after every match was clear the main stand of all the litter left by spectators.

It was an old, dilapidated wooden stand that was built in 1908 and had long since seen better days. There were holes in the floor, under the rows of seats and on the stairways. And when we were clearing, we’d just brush everything down those holes.

For years, generations of apprentices had done exactly the same thing so you can imagine how much rubbish had piled up down there under that old wooden stand. It was a tinderbox. All it needed was a stray cigarette down one of those holes and whoosh. ” Based on photographs taken in the stand, it was possible for investigators to pinpoint where exactly the fire had started.

Interviews with survivors identified two men who had been sitting there, an uncle and nephew visiting from Australia. Investigator Raymond Falconer related his eventual meeting with one of those men. “Before we’d had a chance to introduce ourselves, he simply says, “I’ve been waiting for you.

“… He said he smoked a cigarette, dropped the cigarette onto the floor in front of him, went to put his foot on it but it had unfortunately dropped through, he said, a knothole. ” He told investigators that he’d tried to put the fire out by pouring his coffee on it, but the smoke returned, and then they saw flames.

  1. “So they rushed to the back of the stand, got hold of some policemen, told them what was happening… The truth is that he dropped a cigarette and he was quite unequivocal about it, he dropped the cigarette that started the fire;

” Authorities demonstrably knew that the stand was a fire risk. A year before the fire, some wood had fallen from the roof of the Main Stand during a match, necessitating repairs. The club had applied for a grant from the Football Grounds Improvement Trust, which required supporting documentation from the local authority, so on the 4th of July 1984 a structural engineer from West Yorkshire County Council visited the ground.

  • The engineer, Andrew Shaw, not only wrote the supporting letter that the club wanted for their grant application, but also a second letter, sent to the West Yorkshire deputy fire prevention officer as well as the club;

With regards to the Main Grandstand, it said: “The unusual construction of this stand makes an appraisal of structural adequacy desirable. The timber construction is a fire hazard and in particular there is a build up of combustible materials in the voids beneath the seats.

A carelessly discarded cigarette could give rise to a fire risk. Egress from the grandstand should be in 2. 5 minutes. ” Thirty years after the fire, speaking to a BBC reporter, Tordoff claimed that they hadn’t been aware of these warnings; he said that they’d been sent to the previous board.

However, the date on the letter indicates that this isn’t the case. Although the accidental cigarette theory is officially accepted, not everyone was convinced. Martin Fletcher put forward some compelling arguments for an alternate explanation in his book.

He wrote that it was his mother who first suggested it to him, saying, “Well, you know it wasn’t Stafford Heginbotham’s first fire, don’t you?” On the 31st of May 1985, journalist Paul Foot wrote an article in The Mirror with the headline, “FIRE JINX IN BRADFORD”.

In it, he stated that, “at least five fires have damaged premises owned by or connected with Mr Heginbotham or his companies”; one, in November 1977, had resulted in an insurance payout of £174,663 for fire damage and loss of profits. Thirty years after the fire, and after the publication of Fletcher’s book, a BBC report noted that in total eight such fires had occurred between 1967 and 1981.

  • In the same programme, Tordoff acknowledged this;
  • “He were a likeable rogue, Stafford, and if there were a fire they used to attach Stafford’s name to it, Stafford must’ve walked past it, only joking, like… but I couldn’t imagine Stafford lighting a fire;

” Fletcher doesn’t actually go so far as to make any specific allegations, and Stafford Heginbotham, who passed away in 1995, was never charged with anything in connection with any of those fires. His family called the suggestion ridiculous and diabolical.

However, the implications are clear. One fire is bad luck; but nine? Even if you take the view that they were all coincidence, you might think that a man with so much personal experience of fires should perhaps have paid more attention to the warnings the club received.

The idea that the fire could have been deliberate, at a time when the team was on the up, may seem counter-intuitive. The thing is, their success was about to be very expensive, and this comes down to the state of the stadium, the regulations in place at the time, and their long-awaited promotion back to the Second Division.

The Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 laid out the requirements for safety at large sporting grounds; “large” being defined as any sports ground which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, “has accommodation for more than 10,000 spectators.

” Any venue designated as a large sporting ground under this Act had to have safety certificates that showed it was in line with the recommended practices in The Green Guide, formally known as The Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds. The Valley Parade stadium could easily hold more than 10,000 people; they had played for 23,000 fans during the FA Cup season of 1970.

However, ten years after the introduction of the Safety at Sports Grounds Act, the Main Stand at Valley Parade didn’t meet those standards. It hadn’t needed to; it was still undesignated. The Act was intended to be phased in to allow clubs time to finance improvements; by 1979 it applied to all First and Second Division football grounds.

However, changes in government had delayed its extension, and at the time of the fire in 1985 it still hadn’t been extended to third division clubs like Bradford City. Their promotion to the Second Division, therefore, meant things were about to change; the Act was about to start applying to them, and their stadium would be designated.

  • The improvements needed to get those safety certificates would be very expensive, the local authority could insist that they were made before the next season began, and it doesn’t seem clear how they would be able to finance it;

They had, after all, been in receivership less than two years before. Just one year before the fire, they’d appealed – unsuccessfully – for local companies to advertise on the stand’s roof to pay for its repairs. It was only after that failed that they got the council’s structural engineer to support their grant application to cover those costs, resulting in the letter I mentioned earlier.

In the aftermath of the fire, the main stand at Valley Parade was completely rebuilt – and it was largely public money that paid for it. West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council gave the club £1. 4 million pounds, and they received further funds from the Football Trust and their insurer.

In total, they actually received £200,000 more than they needed – and an awful lot more than the £400,000 that had been mooted as the original cost of the necessary improvements. The Sunwin Stand at the Coral Windows Stadium, home of Bradford City FC. Saturday 9th February 2008. Source: Wikimedia Commons Fletcher also points out that the investigation into the fire appeared rushed. On the 13th of May – the first working day after the fire – the then Home Secretary Leon Brittan announced that there would be an inquiry, to investigate the Bradford fire jointly with another incident which had happened the same day at a Birmingham City match, where a collapsing wall had killed one fan.

However, such an inquiry was only supposed to be held if Parliament had “clearly considered whether or not civil or criminal proceedings would resolve the matter and decided they would not. ” It’s hard to imagine how anyone could come to such a conclusion so quickly.

The media coverage was full of speculation that a deliberate act could have started the fire; the front page of the Liverpool Echo that day declared, “Smoke bombs were thrown at Bradford City football ground on Saturday before its main stand became an inferno.

  • ” However, the inquiry, under Sir Oliver Popplewell, would commence just thirteen working days after the forensic search of the site was completed, leaving little time for in-depth analysis, and it took just five and a half days to hear the evidence;

Popplewell himself said, on the Tuesday after the fire, while visiting the site, “It’s not a lawsuit in which one party wins and another loses. It’s a factual exercise. Blame will not be apportioned. ” The inquiry resulted in a ban of new wooden stands at British football grounds, the immediate closure of a number of stands considered to be unsafe, and a ban on smoking in other wooden stands.

  1. But it didn’t hold anyone responsible;
  2. In July of 1985, an inquest into the deaths at Valley Parade returned a verdict of death by misadventure;
  3. Following this, Fletcher’s mother Susan and police sergeant David Britton, who had served on the fateful day, brought a test case against the club;

On the 23rd February 1987, Sir Joseph Cantley delivered a verdict which held the club two thirds responsible, and the county council one third responsible, on the grounds of negligence. He said, “It is only right that I should say that I think it would be unfair to conclude that Mr Heginbotham, Mr Tordoff, the Board of Directors, or any of them, were intentionally and callously indifferent to the safety of spectators using the stand.

They were at fault, but the fault was that no-one in authority seems ever to have properly appreciated the real gravity of this fire hazard and consequently no-one gave it the attention it certainly ought to have received.

” This meant that, although the families did receive compensation, no individuals were really held accountable. In 2015, after Martin Fletcher’s book was published, there was a call for a new inquiry. However, the Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled that out, saying that there was “no indication of potential misconduct by individual police officers”.

In the end, the Bradford City Stadium fire was the result of a litany of missed warnings. It was clear that the stand was a fire risk; the club and local authority clearly knew that it needed improvements, even the fans who filled it could see the danger.

This was all somehow ignored, put off, filed as something to sort out later. The safety of spectators in the sports grounds of the lower divisions was just not made a priority until it was too late. One of the worst things about this tragedy is the fact that it could have prevented a future disaster, if only someone had been listening.

  1. In the immediate aftermath of the fire, it was pointed out that many of the supporters had escaped the flames by climbing out of the stands and onto the pitch;
  2. However, because of the issues surrounding football hooliganism at the time, there was also a growing trend for stadiums to have high fences penning the supporters in and keeping them off the pitch;

If those fences had been in place at Valley Parade, the number of casualties would have been much, much higher. The Newcastle Evening Chronicle on the 13th of May 1985 noted this, leading with the headline, “Soccer Fences: Are They Madness?” Unfortunately, the focus remained on the fact that it was a wooden stand that had caught fire, with little attention paid to the difficulty of evacuating the stands quickly in an emergency.

Four years later, Martin Fletcher had become a season ticket holder for his new home city’s team, Nottingham Forest. That brought him to Sheffield for the FA Cup Semi-Final against Liverpool at Hillsborough Stadium.

There, he found himself once more a witness to catastrophe, unable to do anything as 96 people were crushed to death in the stands at the opposite end. They were unable to escape, because of the high fences which penned them in.