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League Two

Bradford Fire Disaster: Remembering the 56

11 May 2021

Each year, 11 May is a date that sees the football world come together and pause to remember events on this day in 1985, which saw 56 fans go to a game at Valley Parade but never return home.

In what was described as the worst fire disaster in the history of English football, 54 Bradford City supporters and two Lincoln City fans lost their lives, and 265 people were injured.

Fans, young and old, would not live to see another football match, with generations of football-supporting families losing their lives in the fire. Parents lost children, husbands lost wives and sisters lost brothers – at a football match.

Those who survived describe it as the most horrendous day of their lives, and one that will stay with them forever. It was so very different to how the day was meant to have been as each one of the 56 fans left their homes that day to go and cheer on their team.

Bradford City were supposed to be celebrating. The 1984/85 season had been one of the most successful in the club’s history and, on what was the final day of the season, 11,076 fans turned up to Valley Parade to see their side crowned Division Three champions - their first trophy in 56 years. Instead, it turned into a day of tragedy. 

Bantams captain Peter Jackson had lifted the Division Three championship trophy before kick-off but the match itself would never be finished, with referee Don Shaw stopping play three minutes before half time. The party atmosphere of the title winning celebrations was to be replaced by one of horror as a tragedy that will live forever in football’s memory unfolded.

Accounts of the day detail that at 3.40pm the first signs of a fire in the Main Stand were noticed. Within four minutes the flames were visible, and soon the fire had engulfed the stand.

As a result of the tragedy, new legislation governing safety at sports stadia was introduced, while the Bradford University Burns Research Unit was established as a lasting legacy to those who suffered.

It also undoubtedly brought about an unprecedented united community spirit, buoyed by worldwide messages of condolence and monetary contributions from a host of public events towards a Bradford Disaster Appeal Fund (83% of the total, amounting to £3.35m, distributed to sufferers in November 1985) and the singular aim to return to a new Valley Parade stadium after Bradford City had to play all home league and cup fixtures for the entirety of the 1985/86 season - and the first half of the following season - at their adopted grounds of Bradford Northern RLFC (now Bradford Bulls) at Odsal Stadium in Bradford, Huddersfield Town (Leeds Road) and Leeds United (Elland Road).

The reality came into fruition on 14 December 1986 with a commemorative fixture against an England XI, in front of a 15,000 full-house when Bradford City triumphed, by a 2-1 scoreline.A memorial is in place at Valley Parade listing the names and ages of those who lost their lives, reproduced below. Reading the list gives an indication of the range of ages of people involved and how generations of families were lost.

Today is a day the EFL and the football world remembers the 56, their families and all others affected by the disaster. They will never be forgotten.

The 56

John Douglas Ackroyd (32)
Edmund Anderton (68)
Alexander Shaw Baines (70)
Herbert Bamford (72)
Christopher James Bulmer (11)
Jack Leo Coxon (76)
Leo Anthony Coxon (44)
David James Crabtree (30)
Harry Crabtree (76)
Derek Dempsey (46)
Muriel Firth (56)
Samuel Firth (86)
Andrew Fletcher (11)
Edmond Fletcher (63)
John Fletcher (34)
Peter Fletcher (32)
Nellie Forster (64)
Felix Winspear Greenwood (13)
Peter Greenwood (46)
Rupert Benedict Greenwood (11)
Norman Hall (71)
Peter Anthony Halliday (34)
Arthur Hartley (79)
Edith Hindle (79)
Frederick Hindle (76)
Moira Helen Hodgson (15)
Eric Hudson (72)
John Hughes (64)
John Hutton (74)
Walter Kerr (76)
Peter Charles Lovell (43)
Jack Ludlam (55)
Gordon Stuart Mcpherson (39)
Irene Mcpherson (28)
Roy Mason (74)
Frederick Norman Middleton (84)
Harold Mitchell (79)
Elizabeth Muhl (21)
Ernest Normington (74)
Gerald Priestley Ormondroyd (40)
Richard John Ormondroyd (12)
Robert Ian Ormondroyd (12)
Sylvia Lund Pollard (69)
Herbert Price (78)
Amanda Jayne Roberts (20)
Jane Sampson (18)
William Stacey (72)
Craig Albert Stockman (14)
Jane Ashley Stockman (16)
Trevor John Stockman (38)
Howard Malcolm Turner (41)
Sarah Elizabeth Turner (16)
Simon Neil Ward (18)
Robert Wedgeworth (72)
William James West (78)
Adrian Mark Wright (11)

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