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October 2016
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The Bradford Stadium fire alleged to have been arson

If you were a football supporter in England in 1985, you will remember the Bradford stadium fire in which 56 people died.

At the time we were reminded of the appalling state of many of the lower league grounds that we went to in those days.  Indeed I recall a book of football stadia, which pointed out the fire hazard within that stadium a few years before the disaster.

Evidence is now published today which says that it was just one of at least nine fires at businesses owned by or associated with the club’s then chairman.  The fires resulted in huge insurance claims.

Yet none of this evidence was revealed at the enquiry.  Indeed Bradford City had received three separate warnings about the potential fire risk, two from the Health and Safety Executive and another from the council, but did nothing.

A new book on the fire, with all the details of the other fires that the chairman of Bradford City was involved in, has just been published.

There is an article in the Guardian here, and they are serialising the book.

It is something I would urge you to look at, and to consider once again, the way our sport is administered.

Tony Attwood

13 comments to The Bradford Stadium fire alleged to have been arson

  • Andrew Fletcher

    These are allegations of arson. To headline your article that the Bradford City Fire was arson is in bad taste! As someone who witnessed that fire I think you should rethink your headline and don’t jump to conclusions at this early stage. These allegations need to be looked into further before we can say it was arson.

  • Goathland Bantam

    May be if you put a ‘was’ at the start of the statement and a question mark at the end it wouldn’t make me want to punch your lights out at this most insensitive time. Most of the issues were brought up at the time, in fact Stafford Heginbotham was nearly charged with manslaughter. It was a disaster waiting to happen, and probably would have occurred at another similar ground had it not happened on that fateful day and changes brought in after the enquiry. We all got on with our lives the best we could with dignity, and yes I was there, both my parents were in that stand and luckily got out fine.
    Get all the facts before coming out with controversial post titles.
    RIP the 56 thirty years on.
    Goathland Bantam

  • City Bob

    Could you please alter the title of this article?

    Or better still remove the article completely!

    There’s absolutely no evidence of the fire being caused deliberately apart from one person putting 2 + 2 together and getting 5.

    Such titles will cause enormous upset among survivors of the fire, myself included. It’s insensitive, inaccurate and unnecessary. If you’ve any shred of decency and believe that football supporters should stick together then you’ll bin it. It’s like something the Daily Mail or the Sun would use as a headline and does yourself and the club you represent a disservice.

  • Pete

    Not much shocks me about football any more but, for once, I am lost for words.

    I have forwarded the original article to a couple of journalist friends of mine.

    Thanks for bringing to our attention.

  • edhinho

    I was there. if you seriously believe a man, the chairman of the club,( who was also in that stand) could somehow predict sunny and windy weather, somehow start a fire during the game, and then not consider the possible effects on the people in that stand then the author is (maybe slightly understandably)deluded.
    w.yorks fire service found no evidence of ‘accelerants’
    why come out with this now, close to the 30th anniversary?
    many grounds at the time were potential death traps for all sorts of reasons.
    the daily mail had an ‘exclusive’ blaming it on leeds hooligans.
    luckily the sun didn’t get an ‘exclusive’……
    we will grieve in our own quiet, dignified way (unlike some) as usual, and ignore this…

  • edhinho

    this too:

    I have no problem with “lies” being exposed, injustices overturned, and real truths being uncovered, but this is lousy timing on the part of the author. This book may cause ructions for months, indeed years to come, thus giving the 56 people (including four members of the author’s own family) no opportunity to be remembered with dignity on what is another significant anniversary of the fire.

    Many posters have already called it; If a crime was committed, why start the fire halfway through the match? Why not wait until an hour after the game and claim that the fire was started by a dropped cigarette? Why have steel delivered to start on a refurb of the stand starting on the Monday after the Lincoln game? If the fire was started deliberately, why was no evidence of accelerant found?

    I have the greatest sympathy for the author and the rest of his family; it would be very easy for this to build into an “obsession” in his own mind to look for answers that simply aren’t there. I hope that no City fan takes verbal or physical retribution against the author if he comes back to Valley Parade (although he may have signed his own self-imposed banning order by the publication of this book). I like, many other City fans, have felt that the 56 have had their memories tarnished from the furore of the flag at Wembley to the hoodies turning the “56” into almost a fashion branding to the “Stand up for the 56” chants at the last few matches. Whatever happened to dignity and quiet remembrance?

    I would also ask that the Bradford Burns Unit consider very carefully before they accept any monies from the publication of the book. If the author wants the “truth”, he should campaign for a full judicial re-investigation to find evidence of wrongdoing.

  • TailGunner

    I was reading this earlier in The Guardian and was completely shocked that this information is only now being revealed. How was it covered up for so long? Well done to Martin Fletcher and the Guardian.

  • Menace

    There was a whole lot of corruption in UK at the time. It started from the top (MT vessel & her noise)ran through the newspapers (the same motherfcuking media still selecting our governments) into all of high level business. Phone hackers & expense cheats are just the exposed part of the iceberg. The Justices, the Lords, the Chief Inspectors all culpable.

  • Chris

    Before I start, Yes, I’m a Bradford City fan and I find your title and this piece itself is very poor journalism, did you bother to read the article in full.

    The fire in 1985 at Bradford City has NOT been confirmed as arson, all Martin Fletcher has done is looked into the background of the then chairman and asked the question “How could one man be so unlucky”, He is leaving it up to others to make the accusations for him.

    Justice Popplewell has said that if he’d known about the previous fires connected to the chairman then they would have looked into it but also stipulates that the likely cause was and still is, a discarded cigarette.

    The information regarding the previous fires and the chairman was known all along in Bradford, nothing was hidden here.

    The article in the Guardian was published by none other than Martin Fletchers personal friend who have known each other since their school days.

    Whilst I and many other Bradford City fans have every compassion for the losses that Martin suffered, the timing of his book so close to the anniversary itself has been considered poor timing.

  • Mandy Dodd

    If it was, and let’s face it, there were some compelling circumstances, that is beyond horrific. As we know , Hillsborough, and so many other issues in this country at the time were subject to, at best, improper investigation, at worst, complete coverup.

  • andy bishop

    @ chris..seems the truth has once again spoilt a conspiracy story

  • Menace

    My deepest sympathy to all those who have lost nearest & dearest. Close your eyes & you will see their smiles & hear their laughter for they live within you.

    Andy – truth has a way of biting you when you least expect it. Conspiracy is a term used by those without an argument.

  • Zedsaunt

    There is some conflict here.

    The details of seven of the fires which happened at Higinbotham’s previous businesses were in the microfiche files of Bradford Telegraph’s & Argus, Bradford’s daily newpaper. The microfiche files were kept in Bradford central library.

    A week or two after the fire Paul Foot at the Daily Mirror commissioned research into Higinbotham’s background. This research unearthed the details of seven fires. Unearthed is the wrong word – the researcher went through the files year by year.

    Paul Foot received the research – the details of seven fires at Higinbotham’s previous businesses – and printed an article detailing each of the fires in the summer of 1985 in the Daily Mirror.

    Putting it bluntly – nobody could not know about Higinbotham’s previous seven fires if they hired a researcher in the summer of 1985 and put a researcher in a library with national newspaper files. The FA had to know, the Football League had to know, the police had to know, the government had to know, Lord Popplewell had to know.

    To describe the trauma of Bradford summer 1985 is not something I have any inclination to do. Months after the event you could run into people who described the reality of saying goodbye to a brother who was going off to a football match and never returned.

    Bradford was followed by Heysel two weeks later. Four years later came Hillsborough. The beautiful game is a canvas stretched taut over unimaginable pain.