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30 Years On, Bradford Remembers…And The Football Community Too

23 April 2015

There will be a minute’s silence ahead of the Doncaster Rovers match this weekend to remember the disaster back in May 11th 1985…

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

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.

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 to 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 Fire 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.

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

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 club and fans, and by people in Bradford as a whole.

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