Monday, 11 May 2015

30 years since Bradford Stadium fire

30 years ago it was a boring Saturday and I was half watching World of Sport.
Suddenly it cut to live footage straight from Bradford City's Valley Parade ground, which was surprising  as very rarely would you see live footage from a football stadium at 4pm on a Saturday.

Crowd trouble they said.

"Oh god not again" I thought
There did look to be some trouble and I remember the weary resignation in the voice of the announcer. Quickly they went back to normal programming.

A few minutes later they cut back to Bradford, to say that apparently there was some sort of fire. Yeah  - there was some sort of fire.

Camera closed in on a policeman dragging a fan across the pitch, fans clothes were on fire.
What shocked me to the core however was not the fan but the policeman, who was without his helmet, and seemed completely unaware that his own hair was on fire.
World of Sport soon cut away.

I've just had to look this is up to confirm it wasn't some horrible nightmare, and the fact that this is the first time I've felt the need is evidence of how shocking it was. My spine is tingling now looking at the picture here.

There were of course several football disasters at this time, Heysel and Hillsborough chief among them, but you will notice Bradford often gets forgotten and is talked about quite differently. There is none of the anger or recrimination of those incidents because simply this incident is just too horrifying to revisit. Everyone just wanted to move on and not think about it.

Perhaps this is the reason it has taken 30 years for people to realise the history of fires at businesses owned by the Bradford City chairman Stafford Heginbotham. Eight fires in the 18 years before Bradford, many catastrophic, and many leading to large insurance payouts.

As detailed in Martin Fletchers; Fifty-Six: The Story of the Bradford Fire:

"The club at the time took no actual responsibility for its actions and nobody has ever really been held accountable for the level of negligence which took place. It was appalling that public money was given to the club while it was still owned by the same shareholders under whose direction the fire had happened. I do not include the people currently running the club, who have always displayed a great, sensitive duty to the memory of those who died."

BBC Radio4's Today show this morning played the live audio of the local radio reporter covering the match and it is quite shocking. That horror of fire and people being within it is immediately reminiscent of another more famous piece of live audio recorded in 1937 at the destruction of the German airship Hindenburg.

Rather different outcomes though from those two incidents.

1937 - 36 people die in the Hindenburg disaster.
Result : a whole distinct form of passenger transport - the airship - is scrapped

1985 - 56 people die at a football match in Bradford.
Result : Inquiry concludes - it is just of those things

Two weeks ago our tutor on my CyberSec course wondered what would happen if terrorists attacked a football crowd.
"Depends what they attacked them with.." said one of the students
"..If they burnt the stadium down maybe there wouldn't be any blame attributed at all. That's what happened in Bradford"

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