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30 years on: Bradford City Fire Disaster

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and Supporters Direct merged to become the FSA in 2019 – so this page may contain hyperlinks that do not work and/or have missing files. Our archived pages are not maintained and will not be updated.

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Monday 11th May 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the Bradford City Fire Disaster. A minute’s silence will take place ahead of all matches this weekend (April 25th/April 26th) while fans’ organisations across the country are invited to raise funds for the Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit at the University of Bradford. Bradford City Football Club and the BCFC Supporters Board explain more…

It started with a spark in the corner of the Main Stand at Valley Parade, catching alight the rubbish under the wooden seats of a wooden stand. Within four minutes, the stand had been reduced to a burnt-out shell. 

Fifty-six people arrived for a game of football that day, and did not go home. Two of the fatal casualties were supporters of Lincoln City, Bradford City’s opponents on its last game of the season, and eleven were children.

Hundreds more spectators were injured, and thousands witnessed an event that many have described as ‘the worst day of their lives’. If you think of the families and friends of all these people, and all the consequences in their lives over the years, you will have some idea of the impact on Bradford. The Lord Mayor spoke recently of the Fire ‘tearing the heart out of the city’.

The emotions are still raw. And the memories are always there; they may be less prominent at times, and at other times more present in thought. But they never go away.

Bradford and the football community remembers

Bradford remembers the Disaster in different ways, many of them private and quietly stated. The public memorials have come to focus on two main events:

  • The minute’s silence at the start of the last home game of the regular season at Valley Parade, which occurs this year at 3.00 pm on Saturday April 25th 2015, at the match vs. Barnsley;
  • The Annual Memorial Service held in Centenary Square in the town centre of Bradford at 11.00 am on the exact Anniversary of the Disaster which falls this year on Monday May 11th 2015.

On this 30th Anniversary of the Fire Disaster, for the first time, there is a national dimension to the Commemoration. The FA has invited all clubs within the Premier League, the Football League, the Women’s Super League, and at County FA level to observe a minute’s silence in memory of all those who suffered on May 11th 1985, at all matches played in England on the weekend of April 25th/April 26th.

As well as support from the English FA, the Premier League, the Football League, and the Women’s Super League, the 30th Anniversary Commemoration is backed by the Scottish FA, the Professional Footballers Association, Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation.

Bradford City and fans appreciate deeply this response of the national football community to the Commemoration, which has transcended all the usual rivalries within the game.

The legacy of the Disaster

There are two particular legacies of the Disaster that show how healing and renewal can come even from the worst of circumstances.

The Disaster led to improvements in the construction and safety of football grounds that ensure, hopefully, that nothing like Bradford 1985 can happen ever again, anywhere. But it is worth reflecting that our safety as football supporters today rests to some degree on the sufferings of those caught up in the events of May 11th 1985.

The number and severity of casualties on that day had threatened to overwhelm the health services. Special emergency wards were set up. Surgeons and nurses were called in from far afield to cope with the injured. And many local people – whether City fans or not – came to sit with patients, or to bring them food, or to offer support.

Much of this activity was coordinated by a young doctor, David Sharpe, who began to develop innovative techniques for treating the burns victims. As a result of this experience, he went on to found and lead the Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit (PSBRU) at the University of Bradford. Professor Sharpe OBE remained active in the field until his retirement last year.

The existence of the PSBRU – known also as ‘the Bradford Burns Unit – stands as a lasting memorial, and a living legacy, of the Disaster. It depends entirely on public donations for its continued survival. Memorial activity in Bradford and elsewhere often takes the form of fundraising for the Burns Unit.

This year, for example, there is a 56-mile sponsored run taking in the grounds of Blackpool, Preston North End and Fleetwood Town FC. Barnsley fans are walking all the way to Bradford to arrive for the match on April 25th ; Bradford City kitman John Duckworth is making a similar walk to Bradford from Lincoln, and fans from one of Bradford’s fiercest local rivals, Huddersfield Town, have raised thousands for the Burns Unit.

There is a huge range of memorial activity, bearing in mind always that its primary purpose is commemorative, and that the established tone for all this activity is dignified and restrained. A target of £300,000 has been set for the Commemoration, which would ensure the survival of the Burns Unit for a number of years to come.

If you would like to participate in the Commemoration…

You are invited to take a moment to think of the tragic events of 11th May 1985, and of the sufferings of all those affected by the Disaster, during the one minute’s silence to be held before the Premier League, Football League or Women’s Super League game involving your club on the weekend of 25th April/26th April OR at 11.00 am on Monday 11th May 2015, at the start of the Memorial Service to be held in Centenary Square, Bradford.

If you would like to donate to the Bradford Burns Unit Memorial Appeal, this can be done through the official Commemoration website:

 Alternatively, you can donate through any of the following dedicated fundraising sites:

Cheques should be made payable to ‘The University of Bradford – Burns Unit’ and sent to: The Bradford Burns Unit, University of Bradford, Richmond Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD7 1DP.

 If you wished to make a text-to-donate contribution from a mobile device, this can be done by calling 70070 with the code “VPFA56”. The text message “VPFA56 5” sent to 70070 will, for example, transmit a £5 donation to the Burns Unit.

 Every contribution you make will help to keep the Burns Unit going as a lasting memorial to the victims of the Fire Disaster, and is massively appreciated by Bradford City FC, its fans, and by people in Bradford as a whole.

  • More information on Commemorative activities, including merchandise sold on behalf of the Burns Unit, can be found at:
  • If you would like to organise a fundraising project please do not hesitate to contact Bradford City by email: [email protected]

Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this blog.

Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund


  • Gamble Aware
  • Co-operatives UK
  • FSE
  • Kick It Out
  • Level Playing Field
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • Pledgeball