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Remembering the Bradford fire

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Dan Walker | 13:44 UK time, Thursday, 6 May 2010

The idea of a live show from Valley Parade - or the Coral Windows Stadium - was first suggested at the start of the year. I remember it going down well in our Tuesday planning meeting because people were keen that not all of our outside broadcasts came from Premier League clubs.

We wanted to do something a little different at Bradford to mark the 25th anniversary of the fire, when 56 people went to watch a football match and never came home.

Focus editor Mark Cole was also faced with the difficult issue of slotting an exclusive interview with John Terry into the emotionally-charged show. I know some people were angry it was in there at all, but I think - editorially - it was right to include it.

I'll be honest with you, I didn't know much about the Bradford fire before working on last week's show. I vaguely remember my mum being upset at what she was watching on the TV and telling my dad how awful it was.

The more I read about 11 May, 1985, the more I realised how deeply tragic it really was. I spoke to a guy in our hotel on Friday afternoon, who told me that Heysel and Hillsborough will never be forgotten because Heysel had a global reach and the sense of injustice about what happened at Hillsborough continues to drive people on.

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Bradford was very different, a terrible accident caused by widespread ignorance about safety at football grounds. There were piles of rubbish under an almost entirely wooden stand, which was due to be demolished as soon as the game was over. Sadly, it is thought that one stray cigarette led to disaster.

It was meant to be a day of celebration. The team were presented with the old Third Division championship trophy before the game. It did become a day to remember... but for all the wrong reasons.

We've done some big shows this season but we were all feeling the pressure last Saturday. We wanted to get it right and make sure we hit the right tone. It might seem stupid, but I felt - I think we all felt - that we had a responsibility to do the very best show we possibly could to honour the memory of those who died.

On the morning of the show, we got to the ground about 0930 BST. We rehearsed as usual and I recorded the opening few links outside the stadium.

My wife will testify that it doesn't take much to get me emotional when it comes to sport. Chuck a bit of music over a medal ceremony and I'm finished. The montages at the end of any major sporting event also leave me leaning for the tissues. But last Saturday was different. This wasn't about achieving against the odds or doing what you'd always dreamed of, this was about an unfathomable human tragedy that affects anyone who has ever been to a football match.

Fifty-six people - some as young as 11 - went out that day to support their team. They ended up dying by the side of the pitch. Bill Shankly was a great manager but his quote about football being more important than life and death has always made me sit uneasy. On that point, the great man was wrong.

At about 1030 BST last Saturday, I watched the opening piece to the programme with a few others in the truck. For seven minutes, we all watched in stunned silence as Terry Yorath, John Hendrie, John Helm and others gave their accounts of that tragic day. I was already in tears by the time we got to the radio commentary as the stand started to burn.

Lee Dixon arrived shortly afterwards and Stuart McCall just after 1100 BST. I spoke to McCall about the programme we were about to do and he seemed in good spirits. We even had a laugh about how ginger his hair still was. Then, just before going on air at 1215 BST, we took our places in the main stand, exactly at the spot where the fire had started.

McCall wanted to watch the opening piece so I lent him my earpiece. I had to stand quite close to him and, every now and again, heard him sigh heavily or just whisper a knowing 'oh dear' as the memories came flooding back.

Halfway through, Yorath was unable to continue when he was trying to describe the scene at the ground when he returned later that day. It was too much for McCall as well. He spent the next few minutes wiping away the tears, but I thought he was excellent and gave us a real insight into what it was like on that day.

I've had loads of emails, texts and tweets from people since the show aired, saying how little they knew about the Bradford fire. One guy said he was shamed by his lack of knowledge and went away afterwards to read more .

I suppose he hit on the key point. We cannot forget what happened that day and we need to make sure that every time we sit and watch our team in safety, we remember the price paid by 56 fans at Valley Parade on 11 May, 1985.

If you've got any questions or comments about last week's show, or Football Focus in general, then ask away below.

And don't forget, you can see the second part of our interview with John Terry on Saturday. You can also follow preparations for our final show of the season on twitter at


  • Comment number 1.

    It was a well-made programme on an event that is usually forgotten about, as you mention above. I only have a vague memory from the time of it myself, partly because the other two disasters were probably covered far more prominently in the media.

    Its important to cover a far more sober story at the end of the season so that it isn't all about how much money Tottenham are going to get from being in fourth place, or how much moving from the Championship to the Premier League... money seems to be the most important subject in football these days.

    Dalian Atkinson

  • Comment number 2.

    Well a very differnet blog this week, but equally as good as always.

    I have never heard about that event. Its such a tragedy that these events happen, and like you said people will remember that day for all the wrong reasons. But ultimalty I think it will have brought the club and fans closer.

  • Comment number 3.

    Last week's show was quite moving, and informative. Having lived in Bradford for six years and meeting a bunch of staunch City fans, I had never heard of this tragedy - at least not in terms of people having died - the fans were always keen to let me know how they won the league!!

    On a lighter note Dan, at least tell me you went to 'The Italia' on Great Horton Road to sample their finest all day breakfast

  • Comment number 4.

    Agreed, we should never forget these tragedies, so that we may learn from the past.

    To this end, the FootballPoets website remembers the Bradford, Hillsborough, Munich and 1914 Christmas Truce events, annually, on each of their anniversaries.

    Cec Podd

  • Comment number 5.

    An inciteful blog and piece on a real tragedy,

    Respects to all the supporters who lost there lives that day

    2 Lincoln fans, Mr Stacey and Mr West

  • Comment number 6.

    Sombre, thoughtful and insightful blog Dan, just like Football Focus last Saturday.
    I think the team and guests particularly Stuart McCall did an excellent job and you all hit exactly the right tone in both your coverage and commentary.

    As long as there's programmes like this about tragic events like these will never be forgotten by the wider football community. One point I do disagree on is the lack of feeling of 'injustice' you commented upon. Yes, the fire was an 'accident' but common sense prevailing..the stand was due to be demolished and it was filled with loose bits of rubbish meant it was a highly forseeable and thus preventable one. It was sad that it took the further tradgedies of Heysel and Hillsborough before more clubs were forced to address fans safety in their stadia more strongly.

    Any chance of more of this kind of reporting after the WC, perhaps some BBC4 documentaries in the future on 'events that shaped the game' as we see it today?

  • Comment number 7.

    Nice piece, Dan. The mid-eighties we're a bit of a rotten old time for football supporters.

    It shows my age (39) but I can't believe that people haven't heard about this tragedy.

    Be sure to get yourself around to a few more of the characterful stadiums outside the Premier League.

    Rueben Agboola

  • Comment number 8.

    Agree with the above, a show and blog which were respectful and informative. We should take care to remember the lessons we've learned previously so there is no chance we have to learn them again.
    JoC's idea on 'events that shaped the game' is top, generally the footy history we see is about an individual player or game, be good to get a real history of football series - I recently read up how formations and tactics have evolved over the years and found it fascinating but you don't hear that stuff watching your average match!

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    I am not old enough to remember this but I agree with what has already been said before - things like this should never be forgotten.

  • Comment number 11.

    I only learnt about the Bradford Fire last year as I covered it as part of my dissertation (I wanted to make it interesting so did it on football stadia). It had a massive impact upon the drive for stadium safety and many future regulations, meaning it has played a huge part in the great stadium facilities we see today.

    Jonathan Blondel

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Dan,

    I was expecting another light hearted comical insight but I was really pleased with the change of pace this week. I think it’s important we never forget past tragedies. Being a Leeds fan it was very heart felt we recognised the anniversary of the 2 supporters who lost lives in Turkey against Galatasary, it was a very emotional time and puts it all into perspective.

    Ali Dia

  • Comment number 13.

    I can remember the tragedy, and Hillsborough and Heysel too. My recollection of Bradford is my father telling my brothers and Me to sit down and 'shut up and watch'. Sadly I missed your FF 'memorial', and judging by the comments it looks as if I missed something rather special. Sounds as if you all upheld the Beeb's motto: "Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation"

    FOR SOME REASON THE VIDEO EMBEDDED IN YOUR BLOG IS "NOT AVAILABLE IN YOUR AREA". I know there are limits to your job description, but can you explain why?

    Keep up the good work! In ten or fifteen years I will nominate you as either General Director of the BBC or MP for Crawley.

  • Comment number 14.

    Massive respect to West Yorkshire Police. There is a video of the real time footage on youtube, and although disturbing, it is truly something to see how fast the fire spread.

    The Police at the match were probably enjoying the atmosphere, and then 10 minutes later, pulling burning people out of the flames.

    Well done for taking the show to Valley Parade, and I really think MOTD covered the subject well.

    Hans Segers

  • Comment number 15.

    Unfortunately that was the last occasion that I attended a game at Valley Parade. I'd supported City since 1970 (92nd team in the league when I started!), and supported them home whenever I was on leave, and away if it wasn't too far. I never went to Odsal, and before City returned to Valley Parade I emigrated to Dumfries, hence the Doonhamer part of my log on. I'll never forget that day or the bravery of the Police and ordinary supporters.

    God bless the 56.

  • Comment number 16.

    A great read about a truly terrible day.

    It's always important to remember and commemorate these events.

    Keep up the good work,

    Chris Kamara

  • Comment number 17.

    At last (thankfully) Dan finds his tone - life and death may be more important than football, but they're all more important than which particular biscuit you're enjoying this week.

    I clearly remember watching the terrible events of that day unfold on World Of Sport at my Gran's house.

    The details of Heysel and Hillsborough began to be gleaned afterward, but the Bradford fire happened before my eyes and has stuck with me ever since (I was ten years old).

  • Comment number 18.

    I thought the Football Focus piece was excellent - Thoughtful and informative. I still get upset watching anything to do with that day - I was on my way to the ground to take my 3 year old son for the second half for his first City game, so luckily never got there But the pictures of a guy literally dragging his toddler son from the stand still lives with me today - I always think it could have been us. I don't know whether it's something psychological, but even today I feel guilty that I wasn't there, for some strange reason.

  • Comment number 19.

    Great Article,

    I find it truly shocking that so few people are aware of the terrible events of that day!!!

    The people that lost their lives that day deserve to be remembered forever.

  • Comment number 20.

    Well written blog. It prompted me to sign up and comment for first time.

    I remember watching the disaster on television as a child. I did not sleep properly for months afterward. I cannot imagine how people actually there must have felt. I know that I will not forget those events.

    My sympathies go to all the people affected by the disaster, particularly those who were there and knew people who died.

    Lets hope that the lessons learned from this and other disasters will prevent future loss of life.

  • Comment number 21.


    Unfortunately 25 years ago I was a 9 year old boy who was in the main stand on that day. My saturday started early as I went to the ground at about 12.00 to pay my respects. I was very lucky to see you filming the segment around the memorial with David Markham, Stuart and Lee. Therefore I didn't get to see the programme live but rushed home after the game to watch the programme.

    All I can say is that it was one of the most emotional, powerful and professional pieces of football journalism I've ever seen. I'm not sure if awards are handed out for this type of sports journalism but your programme should be first in the queue.

    Thank you for tackling such an emotional topic in such a moving manner

    James Mackenzie

  • Comment number 22.

    I was 6yrs old and living in Leeds in '85. If i remember correctly there's a swimming baths on top of a nearby hill which overlooked the ground and whilst i remember the fire i don't think i fully understood the tragedy. I do however remember standing on that hill looking down at the charred remains of the stand and imagining all the celebrating fans trying to flee. Not nice memories, but well done to FF for remembering an often forgotten moment in football history.

    Here's to the 56 and their loved ones...

  • Comment number 23.

    Evening all.

    Those of you who are regular readers are probably aware that this is a departure from my regular blog tone so thanks for all your comments so far.

    I am glad that you appreciated the programme last week and the insight from Stuart McCall.

    JoC (#6) and AlicePulley (#8)
    I like the idea about events that shaped the game. Maybe that is something we could pick up on next season. I will certainly suggest it when we come back from the world cup.

    Custodian (#7)
    The plan is get out and about even more next season and maybe do twice as many shows on the road. That obviously means more programmes from outside the premier league as well.

    Blaenorynyclwyd (#13)
    I can explain why you can’t watch it. The footage that you sadly are unable to see is only allowed to be shown in the UK because of rights limitations. Sorry about that brother – it shouldn’t happen too often.

    Ranger Will Robinson! (#17)
    I can’t promise you all the blogs will be like this fine sir but I am glad you enjoyed this one – without a single food reference in it. I was only 8 when it happened and my memories of the fire are nowhere near as vivid as yours seem to be. Thanks for the comment.

    Lenin-99 (#18)
    I think that’s why Yorkshire television decided never to show the pictures again – too harrowing.

    B and H 72 (#20)
    Welcome to the blog and thanks for your first post.

    Lokacious (#3)
    I normally love a solid all-day breakfast but sadly it was a meagre toast / muesli bonanza last Saturday. I didn’t feel like eating too much but when I am back in Bradford I’ll be all over it.

    Thanks again for all the comments so far. I shall come back tomorrow morning under a new government. My vote is hardly decisive but I need to get down to the booth and put a cross down.

    We have a special programme this week. Only half an hour on BBC 1 with another hour on the red button and the website. You’ll hear from John Terry, Roy Hogdson, Peter Crouch, Ian Holloway, Tim Cahill and many others. I shall put more details on tomorrow.

    See you soon.

  • Comment number 24.

    There's a guy I knew who has an unusued ticket for that stand. For whatever reason he didn't go that day which must be a difficult thing to deal with especially at this time of year.

  • Comment number 25.

    As a Bradford City fan, I just wanted to say thank you to the Football Focus team for a very thoughtful and compassionate programme. In particular, I thought Dan got the tone of presentation just right. I think it was a fitting memorial.

    For those who are looking for some more information about that day, I can recommend Paul Firth's book 'Four Minutes to Hell: The Story of the Bradford City Fire': a detailed, well-researched and respectful account that seeks to inform rather than blame, and provides a real insight into how the tragedy affected our city so deeply.

  • Comment number 26.

    Bit surprising that mein host himself has been referred to the moderators? Perhaps its a quiet night for them...

    John Jensen

  • Comment number 27.

    I seem to be being moderated at the moment for some reason... can't remember saying anything dodgy. I did mention I was off to vote - maybe that was the problem.

    It is doesn't come back I will go again tomorrow.

    Terry Nutkins

  • Comment number 28.

    You got moderated out of your own blog!!! WOW that is a nanny state for you.
    Dan, the more I hear about this piece of journalism as 'award winning' and such like, the more I want to watch it. Can it be posted on the web? I know there are all sorts of issues that prevent FF from being streamed or posted but a single report on Valley Parade?

  • Comment number 29.

    I have joined the BBC just to comment on this. As a crewe Alex fan our stand was virtually identical to the one that went, we continued to use it for another 15 years. We went no smoking and it still gets me that idiots would still spark up and whinge when told to put it out.
    My heart goes out as it did when I was 13, to all that were involved in whatever way that day, and clearly to those that lost their lives and their families and friends.
    I have been and relived that day courtesty of you tube, and genuinely wish I hadn't.
    Moments just stick in the memory, this will for ever and yet for the want of a few extra minutes of good fortune, this would never have happened.

  • Comment number 30.

    My cousin Adrian, aged just 11, and his grandad never made it home on that day so I had mixed feelings about watching the show on Saturday. FF and Dan gave a fitting tribute I felt and although at times I was reduced to a sobbing wreck I am glad that the story of that day has been brought to a wider audience. The 56 will always be in our hearts, rest in peace.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hi Dan,

    Just wanted to say it was a great programme last Saturday. Focus is really untouchable when doing programmes like this and the one from Anfield last season. Outstanding televsion and followed by a great radio 4 programme too.

    I love the idea of JoC of maybe some BBC4 programmes next season on events that changed football. I also wish the BBC would use their archive more on their digital channels too.

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi Dan,

    Just a line to say thanks for the really moving tribute to the fans that died 25 years ago at Valley Parade, and also to Gabby Logan for her equally moving programme on the radio later the same evening.

    I was there that day, and it is not something that is easily forgotten, nor should it be,and I am so very thankful that the BBC decided to produce it, as it does seem to have become the "forgotten disaster" A programme such as this will ensure that will never happen.

  • Comment number 33.

    I am a Bradford fan who was at Valley Parade on 11 May 1985 when I was 13. I was standing in a small area in front of the main stand and my Dad pulled me over the wall when the fire started.

    I wanted to say thankyou for the superb Football Focus last week. Events of that day will be forever in my head and in my heart and I wept openly whilst watching your programme. The club and the city are bound together by the events of that day and I thank you for helping others to remember.

  • Comment number 34.

    My first season as a Bradford fan was when VP re-opened after the fire. Even though I wasn't there that day thought it's something that is etched in the mind forever, something we at BCFC will never forget.

    The focus programme was extremely moving, it had me in tears from the off. Well done to all involved in the making of it for handling such a sensitive issue for many people with such respect, total respect too for Jacko, Hendrie, McCall & most of all Yorath for revisiting those hideous memories. It can't have been easy for any of them...

    Keep up the good work Dan

    RIP56. Forever in our hearts, YNWA. x

  • Comment number 35.

    A well written Blog Dan, and the programme delivered last week was a fitting tribute to the people that lost their lives that day.

    It angers many that these situations were entirely avoidable, and I feel we are possibly back on track with our safety at sporting events and will hopefully never witness horrific events like these ever again.

    Events like those in the Luznikhi in the early 80's and Ibrox in the 1970's should possibly have led to greater safety awareness a lot sooner.

  • Comment number 36.

    Congratulations on an excellent programme.

    While I am old enough to remember the terrible day, it has been unjustly forgotten about, when compared with the other 80s foorball disasters, so your programme served an important function.

  • Comment number 37.

    I must admit, I was surprised that Football Focus was screened from Valley Parade on Saturday. As a Bradford fan I am personally aware of the tragedy, but did not think it was deemed 'high profile' enough outside of Bradford to be given as much coverage as it was.

    I think the decision to make Saturday's programme from VP was excellent and hats off to those responsible, I thought it was put together really well and was very emotional, increasing awarness about what went on that fateful day.

    Well done Dan and the rest of the team on an excellent piece.

    RIP the 56.

  • Comment number 38.

    It was a very good show. Full of information, for those not familiar with our tragedy. It was done with much thought, dignity and sensitivety. Stuart McCall, what a hero. Your blog is just right too. I hope you managed to stay for the game and saw two fantastic goals by Gareth Evans.

  • Comment number 39.

    Good morning. I am still being moderated - which is fun so I am going to try again without the reference to voting yesterday.

    Thanks so much for the comments so far on the blog. It's a bit different to my normal tone but it's great that many appreciated the tone of the programme last Saturday and the insight from Stuart McCall.

    JoC (#6) and AlicePulley (#8)
    I like the idea about events that shaped the game. Maybe that is something we could pick up on next season. I will certainly suggest it when we come back from the world cup.

    Custodian (#7)
    The plan is get out and about even more next season and maybe do twice as many shows on the road. That obviously means more programmes from outside the premier league as well.

    Blaenorynyclwyd (#13)
    I can explain why you can’t watch it. The footage that you sadly are unable to see is only allowed to be shown in the UK because of rights limitations. Sorry about that brother – it shouldn’t happen too often.

    Ranger Will Robinson! (#17)
    I can’t promise you all the blogs will be like this fine sir but I am glad you enjoyed this one – without a single food reference in it. I was only 8 when it happened and my memories of the fire are nowhere near as vivid as yours seem to be. Thanks for the comment.

    Lenin-99 (#18)
    I think that’s why Yorkshire television decided never to show the pictures again – too harrowing.

    B and H 72 (#20)
    Welcome to the blog and thanks for your first post.

    Should also say thank you to James Mackenzie, phil, Jeremy Orbell, Mark Supersib, Stuart Wright, SaintStatto, Kevin, Rob, Douglas and tomefccam for sharing your thoughts and memories.

    Lokacious (#3)
    I normally love a solid all-day breakfast but sadly it was a meagre toast / muesli bonanza last Saturday. I didn’t feel like eating too much but when I am back in Bradford I’ll be all over it.

    We have a special programme this week. Only half an hour on BBC 1 with another hour on the red button and the website. You’ll hear from John Terry, Roy Hogdson, Peter Crouch, Ian Holloway, Tim Cahill and many others. More details to follow.

    See you soon.

  • Comment number 40.

    As someone who would be classed by some as a young'un (I'm turning 21 this year!), I hate to admit my ignorance on this particular incident, as this, as well as both Heysel and Hillsbrough, was before my time. However, it's a truly tragic event, and my thoughts are forever with the families and friends of those whose lives were taken in all of them.

    Well done with giving this the right exposure as well, Dan. It can be really difficult to capture the emotion of events like this, but both the programme and the blog seem to get it absolutely spot on.

    Stig Inge Bjørnebye

  • Comment number 41.

    THank you for the programme and the memorial, it often is a disaster that's overlooked. I think it's probably because Heysel and Hillsborough happened at a similar time, to much wider media coverage, as they involved more high-profile teams and matches.

    The tragedy doesn't just belong to Bradford, something which is overlooked even more, we should never forget the two Lincoln City fans who died that day too.

    I don't think the disaster is forgotten in Bradford- one of the main roads in the city is named after the German city of Hamm, who did so much for us after the disaster- but nobody likes to talk about it very much. It touched everyone, and still does- even people like me, who are far too young to remember it (I was two at the time).

    Dan, Yorkshire Television should be applauded for putting a worldwide ban on the usage of the pictures. But I should mention News International who, using Fox TV, in 2002 released a TV show about football hooliganism. They showed the fire, claiming that only a handful of people died and that the fire was caused by hooligans fighting. That's the sort of thing we have to continue to fight against, and something which hopefully Football Focus will have rammed home.

    Valley Parade didn't burn down because of hooligans, or because of too many fans trying to get into a ground without tickets. Valley Parade burned down because of an antiquated stand and sheer bad luck.

  • Comment number 42.

    My first comment (#23) has come out of moderation so now you can enjoy both of them. It must have been the voting bit.

    Keep your comments and questions coming and I shall return after lunch.

  • Comment number 43.

    Dan wrote: JoC (#6) and AlicePulley (#8)
    I like the idea about events that shaped the game. Maybe that is something we could pick up on next season. I will certainly suggest it when we come back from the world cup.

    Great to hear our opinions have a voice in the corridors of power Dan - makes these blogs even more relevant to us fans. If some similar style programmes like your 'Bradford Tribute' are put together, showing the changing influence on how the game has changed because of 'significant' events like these..I'm sure you'd get a really appreciative audience. Maybe some more 'one-off' documentaries additional to each from Lawro & Hanson (The Boot Room Legacy), Dixon & Keown (Bung-gate & Agents in Football), Shearer (International Captaincy and how the role has changed) etc - don't want you to have to do all the work heh? ;)

  • Comment number 44.

    Hello Dan,

    i watched the programme last week & found very emotional myself. i was there on that fateful day & the whole events from the day have never left my memory. I was in the same stand that burnt down but, fortunatley for me, i managed to escape unlike 56 others. It still hurts to this day whenever i remember it all but, i do think that your show dealt with the evrything in a most respectful manner.

    I'm now living in Northern Ireland & have been to a few grounds around the province & looked around at the stadiums, to say that they are in a similar sort of state to what the 'Old' Valley Parade used to be in would be an understatement. Maybe if you ever get the chance to come over & see for yourself, you might see what i mean. I would hate for the sdame to happen anywhere else, as what happened in Bradford on May 11th 1985.

  • Comment number 45.

    As a Bradford City fan I thought it was a fantastically well-made programme that struck just the right balance, and paid respect to the 56 fans. All the fans I've spoken to echo that feeling.

    Thanks to Dan and all involved with making this programme. Please BBC, more programmes like this.

  • Comment number 46.

    Excellent piece and some great ideas coming for future programmes.

    One question - what was the music that was used? Hauntingly simple...

  • Comment number 47.

    I'm disappointed I missed Football Focus last weekend , will have to try and catch it online. I was just 8 when the fire happened but old enough to remember it and can still remember it being spoke about at School on the Monday afterwards. The words Bradford and fire has always for me gone together unfortunately.

    As a Liverpool fan I have (selfishly) focused more on what happened at Hillsborough whilst growing up but the 56 should never be forgotten.

  • Comment number 48.

    "The Red Button" brilliant. I wonder if the BBC will do what they did for the Euros in 2008 with the red button offering footage of "Euro Legends" and "Classic Matches" brilliant viewing if anybody caught it??

    I didn't comment about McCall so I will now. Always liked him from his time at Everton, never going to be a Zidane, but an honest player I would have liked to have seen a bit more of in the premiership.

    His thoughts last week were invaluable, and Bradford City is obviously a club very close to his heart. I'm sure all the City fans were delighted with his input.

    I had a bit of a pre-conceieved idea of him previously thinking back to his time celebrating promotion back in 1999 with bradford where he crawled accross the top of a car with a can of bud in his hand and fell onto his face (If people haven't seen this, they really's hilarious).

    But last week he was really good, and I wish the guy all the best for the future. Mentioned his Dad coming to watch him too, and how the events directly affected him. Management hasn't quite worked out for him, I think he will make a great coach somewhere like he did at Sheff Utd.

  • Comment number 49.

    I knew about the rights limitations. I was asking if you with your influence could get JUST the VP report released from those limitations. Having had that gripe about my location and consequential Beeb limits I ought to counterbalance things a bit.
    Being 5 hours behind you guys. I have never stayed awake until 4:30AM BST for elections and still gone on to have a good night's sleep. Last night I did. Victoria Derbyshire and her co=presenter ( guy's name is on tip of my tongue) did a great job.

  • Comment number 50.


    Whilst I saw segments of the show on Saturday as we had visitors, it would appear from the comments a stirling job was done, and I hope it is still on iPlayer so I can watch it tonight.

    What has been mentioned several times is the misconception of what happened on the day, that it was hooligans. The realtime footage appears on youtube regularly, and is taken off, only to reappear. Every time it does appear though, you get dozens of people from around the world commenting on the "mindless thugs and hooligans" cheering as the stand burned.

    The thing is, no-one knew what was happening, it was unprecedented. I mean, a football stand burning down, it's not something you see everyday, so yes, why not cheer and sing?
    I was 13 and watching it with my grandad who was a Bradford fan, he only lived about 4 miles from the ground. Even though we could see the smoke billowing into the air through the window, it only really became apparant of what happened when a gentleman walked onto the pitch engulfed in flames, and was smothered by policemen. An image I can still see in my mind today. I am told he was the only person to die that came out onto the pitch.

    The people on the pitch had no idea that so many people were trapped behind the stand and were dying, how could they?

    And that is why it is a game that changed football. It changed a generation of football fans perception of danger at grounds, and it changed how grounds are designed and built. The Bradford fire was waiting to happen somewhere, if not there, and the tragic loss of 56 lives was the basis of current football stadium safety design and procedures around the world.

    I remember watching the Bradford fire, Hillsborough, and Heysel live, all of them, and will never forget any. When I take my daughter to see my team, Huddersfield (sorry Grandad!!) I always feel safe, and it's a sad fact that these disasters ensured that we all enjoy football safely today.
    The people who died, and their families, gave so much for which we all should be truly thankful.

    On a more cheery note, I like the idea suggested of stories from lower leagues. The format of the Football League Show "Potted History" slot is excellent, and something similar would be good, but perhaps a bit longer. Interviews with older fans too, they always have a tale to tell. And sometimes their teeth fall out, to add a little humour to the piece; always worth a titter.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hi Dan,

    I was at Valley Parade on the 11th May 1985 and lost a friend who was on her first visit to a football game that day. Having recently moved to Australia this will be the first year I haven't been in Bradford for the final game/anniversary of the fire, but I will still be thinking about it.

    Having heard from relatives back in the UK about the programme I decided to check out the BBC website and found this page, after reading the comments above I would just like to say thank you for reminding people of the tragic events that took place that day in such a compassionate and professional manner.

    I know it will have been difficult for Stuart (McCall) as his own father was injured in the fire. When people from outside Bradford ask why we hold him in such high regard I just explain to them about the fire and the fact that Stuart attended as many funerals as possible and also visited countless people recovering in hospital and all this at the age of 21 speaks volumes about the man.

    Wishing you all the best from down under and thank you again for reminding younger football fans (under 30s) about our sadest day.

  • Comment number 52.

    41.David (and also referencing 50. What_Would_Dev_Do)

    Its awful that News International ran a story in that way (eg intimating that the fire was caused by hooliganism), it's a shame no-one (the club?) sued.

  • Comment number 53.

    Good piece Dan. I have never forgotten listening to reports of that horrific fire on the radio. It is interesting to look back to that fateful day and see how far we have come in football. It's just so sad that innocent fans had to die for us to now sit in all-seater stadiums.
    I - and I am sure many other fans - used to sit in wooden stands (Clock Stand at Roker Park for me) are thinking there but for the grace of God.... May we never forget

  • Comment number 54.

    Afternoon all. It's amazing that this programme seems to have touched so many people. Thanks again for all the comments and it's wonderful to know that you think we struck the right balance of emotion without straying into sentimentality.

    If you are interested in what is on this week's Football Focus you can click on the link below...

    Thanks again

    David Dimbleby

  • Comment number 55.

    I watched the fire unfold from the front of the kop. From a whiff of smoke, to a small flame, to the block being on fire, to the whole stand, about a minute between each. I was 11 at the time and the magnitude of it didn't sink in until years later.

    I agree that the piece was one of the best examples of sports journalism I've seen. I don't need to see the pictures again because I can still see them as if it was yesterday. I won't forget as won't the other 11000 that were there or the family and friends of the 56 that never made it home or the hundreds who were injured. Hopefully your programme will help to ensure the rest of football doesn't forget either.

    One point that is often missed is that while yes, safety at stadia has undoubtedly improved, the other lasting legacy was the fantastic work done by the doctors in the burns unit at the BRI. A lot of techniques were developed and enhanced due to the injuries they were faced with that are commonly used around the world today.

    Well done on a touching, respectful and perfectly presented tribute.

  • Comment number 56.

    Tragedy seems to lurk in the shadows all around football. I was watching an interview with a York City player this week after the troubles at Luton. First up that reminded me of the riot at Kenilworth Road by Millwall fans back in the 80s but during that interview you could see a memorial stand dedicated to former York player, David Longhurst, in the background.

    I remember watching him score a hatrick in an FA Cup tie at Gillingham when he was playing for Peterborough and was saddened when I heard he'd died on the pitch while playing for York just a few months later.

    I'm a Lincoln fan at heart so I had an interest in the Bradford game so it's not something I forget especially as the Stacey West stand at Sincil Bank is named after the two City fans that died.

    I'd also been at a game in Lincoln on the day that Hillsborough happened. I know exactly where I was I first heard reports and at that point the death toll was 'only' 50. Still sends a shiver whenever I walk through that part of town.

    While Lincoln is my team I also follow Liverpool so that disaster resonates as does Heysel. Fortunately these events are relatively rare but let none of them ever be forgotten.

  • Comment number 57.

    Dan, I'm so glad that you decided to write this blog because I've been wanting to write about last Saturday's FF since it was broadcast, but wasn't sure whether to put it on 606.

    I will never forget 11th May 1985 and the terrible pictures broadcast. I keep the people of Bradford very close in my heart, especially at this time of year. I'm very proud that my club (Chelsea) played a testimonial to raise funds for the Lord Mayor's Disaster Fund. And yes, I cried all the way through FF last Saturday. Tony Delahunty's commentary was almost too much to bear (and the preliminary warning to younger viewers was entirely justified).

    God bless everyone in Bradford, especially the families of the dead,the injured and the survivors.

    Love from Blue Baby xxx

  • Comment number 58.

    Dear Dan,

    I was nervous when I knew Focus were covering the 25th anniversary of the fire. I was stood in the Bradford End that day as a ten year old and the last game of the season at Valley Parade is always an emotional one. My fear this Saturday was how you would handle the anniversary but Focus' handling of the subject was brilliant, understated and as unsentimental as it is possible to be for such an emotive issue.

    I cried pretty much from start to finish but even though it was hard to watch it was magnificently done.

    Stuart McCall may not have worked out as our manager but will always be a legend and your comments about him are further proof of this. It's a measure of his decency that he stood alongside Peter Taylor and spoke in glowing terms of him and wished him all the best. There aren't many who would be man enough to do that in private, never mind on national TV.

    Thank you

  • Comment number 59.

    Very moving blog. Like this disaster & the Ibrox one, it doesn't get enough coverage on it's anniversaries to remember the people.
    Stuart McCall: Bradford & Rangers Legend.

  • Comment number 60.

    What a memory this is - have been discussing it all at work this week with my colleagues, and the horrendous sights on that Saturday afternoon. I'm a designated fire marshall at our workplace and the Bradford fire is often used to illustrate the dangers of leaving stuff lying around - it was incredibly emotional watching it on tele 25 years ago as it happened, and it brings me out in a bit of a cold sweat still now when I see clips or start to discuss and remember different aspects. It's something that will never leave me, and I wasn't even there. My respects and good wishes to all who experienced it or lost loved ones.

  • Comment number 61.

    Hi Dan

    Missed FF due to work commitments but I'll certainly be reading into the events of that tragic day. I lived in Bradford for 4 yrs and think I only heard the disaster referred to once. Then again, they were more concerned about the race riots (which my mates decided to jokingly blame me for, given that I was in Burnley the wknd it happened then in Bradford when it all kicked off in Burnley).

    It's a terrible shame when it takes 56 people losing their lives to make the football authorities act.

    A fine piece of journalism, Dan, much kudos to you.

  • Comment number 62.

    May i add my sincere and profound sympathies to the families and friends of this horrific tragedy.

    Yet again it was a case of the lifeblood of football losing their lives to make going to the match safer for us today.

    God bless the victims of Bradford.

  • Comment number 63.

    I can only feel horror and sorrow for those who truly lost that day rather than gratitude for my own good fortune in getting out of that stand unhurt. I just wanted to write something to join with all the others who feel the same way; because it was that unity of spirit from outside and within Bradford itself that got the city through the worst of times. The lives lost were not entirely in vain, our city and its people had to become stronger and more caring to overcome the human tragedy. The care, understanding and strength that people found after the fire makes me extremely proud to count myself as a Bradfordian.

    P.S. Lokacious, I did have a breakfast at The Italia on Great Horton Road that day- the Italia had been owned and run by family since 1968.

  • Comment number 64.

    I used to be a football steward. Part of my training was watching the Bradford Fire video. In retrospect, it seems strange, but apparently the radio traffic of the fire was recorded (by the Police?) and this was put over the TV pictures on the video, until the fire took hold, when the video switched back to the TV broadcast sound. It demonstrated that the fire precautions of the time were just abysmal and a disaster was just waiting to happen, and with the wooden stand, the rubbish, and the commonality of smoking in the stands, the difficulty people had getting out or even to put the fire out and stop it from spreading; it all just came together.

    I am always glad to hear of such tragedies being remembered and publicised for those who were too young or not around at the time to know or remember them. As a Liverpool supporter, I have come across a local teenager who supports Liverpool who did not know about Hillsborough until last year. It seems incredible, until you later find out that this person has gone back to their family to ask why they had never mentioned it to be told that talking about it was just too painful.

    People need to be told about these things, so that it can be related to the fans of today, as this is why we have stewards now and this is why they do what they do. Sometimes it can seem over-zealous to the uninitiated or the unaware, but far more often than not stewards are acting properly and under instruction to ensure that the events at Heysel, Ibrox, Hillsborough and Bradford do not occur again.

  • Comment number 65.

    Hi Dan,

    Love friday focus and your blog on here, Lawro's comment at the end was funny. Not commented before but just wondered if you miss your days with Gordon Burns and Diane on North West Tonight? It was reddy brek, marmite on toast and a brew for me this morning btw.


  • Comment number 66.

    Thanks for another fantastic blog Dan. I've been an avid reader all season, but this week's entry moved me to post a comment.

    I am very surprised how the Bradford Fire seems to slip under the nation's "radar" by way of rememberence. Reading your blog and watching the video clip brings back some very emotional memories.

    I was 13 at the time of the fire and I had watched many a game from that stand with my Dad and his friend from work. We didn't follow one particular club but visited many grounds, but due to the fantastic performances of Bradford that season, we seem to go back to Valley Parade more often than perhaps we normally would have. Every time we took our seat in wooden stand and realised how easily rubbish could slip under the seats, my Dad remarked on how dangerous it could be should a stray match or cigarette find its way down there. With hindsight, you wish you would have said something at the time, but realistically I am not sure anyone would have listened.

    We were due to be in the stand that day, but my Dad's work colleague couldn't make the game, so we decided not to go. I will never forget my Dad taking a phone call that evening from his colleague's wife who was in tears assuming we would have gone to the game.

    I know it affected my Dad quite badly in the days and weeks after the fire as he didn't know whether he would have taken me to what he would assumed would be safety through the fire escapes at the back of the stand or whether he would have taken the unusual route of going down onto the pitch - which turned out to be the only way out.

    I know he found some peace of mind after going to pay his respects at the ground, but it's something that will always stay with me and I shudder to think "what might have been". I can't begin to imagine what it is like for those fans who were there or families who lost loved ones.

    Thanks for remembering those who were lost and paying a fitting tribute to them.

    Bradford City have always been a very friendly club and will always have a special place in both mine and my Dad's hearts.

  • Comment number 67.

    I'm Steve who tweeted Dan to thank him for the show, many many fans on the official forum for Bradford City were so apreciative of what a lovely job Dan and the team did.

    His comment about McCall moved me, even though he left the club as manager, we adore him and he adores the club, its a big regret that it never worked out for us, him taking us up just one level would have been epic.

    I'm ashamed that obviously I knew about the fire but never actually took in what must have happened and people must have been through. Burns are horrific and it's a reason the City fans continue to donate and collect for the Burns unit.

    They did and continue to do a quite superb job, what scares me is I leave my girlfriend and two kids every week to go watch the game with my brother, the reason that people did the exact same thing but never returned is something that stays with me forever.

    I know Dan has read some of the thoughts on the official City forum [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] but if anyone else wishes to read from the Beeb or otherwise, then the topics are down the first page of topics, every comment is positive and rightly so.

    The day last week was sadly tarnished by the actions of some 'morons' as our chairman labelled them goading and attacking northampton fans coaches. They will be dealt with and banned for a long time from our ground, a word to the Northampton fans who I guess City fans will share a mutual respect with considering their brilliant behaviour, buying our charity t-shirts (£5 all to the burns unit) and placing their scarf and pennant on our memorial at the ground.

    Importantly, a superbly honoured minutes' silence by everyone in the ground.

  • Comment number 68.

    I didn't see Football Focus – and it would have been difficult to watch if I had - but all credit to the BBC for marking the anniversary. I was 13 at the time and in G block near the back with my brother. In seconds the corridor at the back of the stand was full of people, then in an instant thick black smoke made it impossible to see anything and hard to breath. The heat was intense too and for some moments I was certain I would die – an indescribable feeling. Somehow I found a gap, climbed back down over the seats and was helped over the wall by a policeman. I had no idea what had happened to my brother and after standing around near the goal at the Bradford End for a while left the ground talking to another lad who had become separated from whoever he was with. I was later reunited with my brother; I don't know if the other lad was as fortunate. The 56 who didn’t make it, who’d only gone to watch a football match, must never be forgotten.

  • Comment number 69.

    As one who was less than 10 feet from the seat of the fire on that fateful day, I have had to get used to living with the terrible memories which will be forever etched in my mind. Many firms use the film of that day for fire training but I always have to walk out as I am still unable to watch it.
    It was with some trepidation that I watched the Football Focus on teh 25th anniversary. However the BBC and all involved deserve enormous credit for the way that the whole program was put together and transmitted. The way the events were put over was done with sensitivity and dignity and was braodcasting of the highest order. Thank You BBC

  • Comment number 70.

    having watched the program it brought home so many memories on that day i had been at maine road (being a man city supporter) wwe were playing harlton and had just won promotion to the 1st div and this is the part that will live with me forever going backto the car and seeing fans with smiles just suddenly change to horror as ours did ince we heard the news.its true that on the global news hysel and hillsbrough make more news but the poor souls that lost there lives that day this is wrong those were just normal fans enjoying a oarty atmoshpere i will always remember those poor fans god bless each and everyone and there familes

  • Comment number 71.

    I was 4 years old on the day of the Bradford Fire. My Dad was one of the Policeman working at the stadium that day, luckily he was one of the fortunate one's who eventually managed to get out but not until he had fulfilled his duty of helping as many of the fans who were able to get out of there to safety. Even though I was only young I can still remember that day vividly. It was reported on the news before we had heard anything from my Dad and we were all sat at home tearfully wondering if he had got out of there alive. He sustained burns to his head due to the melting of the tar on the roof of the stand but he lived to tell the tale although is still affected by the events of 11th May 1985 today. The one thing that I will never forgot is that he said he could quite easily have gotten out from where he had been standing but that his first thought was to fulfilling his duty and helping others. I think that as well as the 56 poor souls who unfortunately never made it home from the ground that day we should also remember the emergency service teams who worked so hard to fulfil their duty and put others before themselves. I never realised until I read this article that the ground had been scheduled for demolition after the match, what a shame that the powers that be didn't close the ground as soon as they realised the potential dangers.

  • Comment number 72.

    A black day for football. The police are often much criticised for their handling of football games, however much credit is due to the officers on duty that day. Without their actions a dreadful day could have seen even more lives lost.

  • Comment number 73.

    Hard to add to all of this. Like others I've signed up just to comment here. Just browsing BBC Sport/BCFC and here was this link. I've spent the last 15 mins reading all the comments and then watching the vid. Very moving piece, thank you. I was a big BCFC fan back then, 17, been driving 4 months and followed them everywhere with several of my mates from Bradford GS, about 3/4 mile down Manningham Lane. I wasn't there that day, unusually, I had a job on a farm near Ilkley and stayed all afternoon. Usually I left at about 2 and drove over the moors to Bradford to go to the match - or even just get there at half time and walk in the fire exits at the back of that main stand, which were routinely unlocked at half time. 5 mins after the fire started. Still not sure why I didn't go that day.

    Anyhow, thanks very much, esp for the clip. Tony "the goal light's flashing at Valley Parade" Delahunty's voice in particular set me off. Courtesy of "The Pulse" or as I remember it "Pennine Radio 235."

    Morning Assembly in school Monday 13th May I will never forget. A very staid and strict public school.....but boys in tears, many wearing football scarves (forbidden of course - but both claret and amber and Leeds were much in evidence). And the silence was well, heartbreaking and unforgettable. The Deputy Head Mr Crowther led us all in remembrance, and I'll never forget.

    TP. Exiled Bantam in Cardiff.

  • Comment number 74.


    Compliments on the show it was very moving as was Gabby Logan’s piece on radio 4.

    I was there as a 12 year old on that fateful day in the Bradford End next to the tunnel with my good friend and his father. I'll never forget the heat and the sights I saw that day for as long as I shall live. Even now the images of the old man on the pitch haunt me as it happened right in front of me.

    We had to witness images that no 12 year old should ever have to see as we couldn't get out of the ground initially, the doors were locked to keep people off the streets to keep the roads clear for the emergency services. When we did get out on the streets what we witnessed was utter carnage and shock.

    Unfortunately we later found out we lost our close friend Adrian Wright aged 11 in the fire who perished along with his elderly Grandad, Adrian was a mad Liverpool fan like a lot of the kids were in those days and the Match was his very first at Valley Parade.

    I'll never forgot the day or the sights we saw but all 4 of my school friends that were there that day and survived still go today, we all sit together and whinge like hell every match so in a weird way it really bonded the club and fans together.

    RIP 56, Never forgotten.

  • Comment number 75.

    Today being the anniversary of the tragic fire, I'd just like to thank you for the FF broadcast from Valley Parade. As some other comments illustrate, many younger people were previously unaware of the events of May 11 1985. It is important that we do remember, if only to ensure something like it never happens again.

  • Comment number 76.

    Dan Walker is exactly right. We should not forget these bad incidents. We should learn from the past incidents, But we forget good things after some time. That is our mistake. We have to change our selves to learn from past and do not make mistakes like this in future.



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