Bradford offers sober reminder of what has been lost and learnt

Talking Point

"I didn't realise they were safe until one and a half hours after the fire had started. We didn't have mobiles of course. I was very anxious, I've got to say."

The words are those of David Markham; they recall the day, a quarter-century ago this week, when fire razed the main stand at Valley Parade during Bradford City's final day of what had been a successful season.

Markham was there to report City's Third Division championship celebrations for the Bradford Telegraph & Argus. Instead he found himself searching for his two teenage sons who had been in the stand when it caught light. It took just four minutes for the 74-year-old wooden structure to be engulfed, many fans escaped onto the pitch but others were trapped by locked doors at the back of the ground.

Markham's sons survived, but 56 people died, half of them under 20 or over 70 years of age. More than 250 suffered burns and other injuries.

On Tuesday the club and city will mark the anniversary with a series of commemorative services. Markham's reference to mobile phones is a reflection of how much the world has changed since. The whole matchday experience is very different, largely due to the legislation that followed the tragedies of Bradford and Hillsborough, but also to the cash that has flooded into the game. Fans may be fleeced too often these days, but their safety is no longer an afterthought. Wooden stands are rare, and smoking – a discarded cigarette probably caused the fire – banned in stadia.

Valley Parade, like every other football ground, has been transformed. For a while so were City's fortunes. In the late Nineties they achieved promotion to the Premier League, but over-reached financially and fell back down the divisions. They are now in the bottom tier, and have found it hard to escape though a strong finish under Peter Taylor gives cause for optimism.

Whatever their status the club, and city, have not forgotten their dead. There is evidence, too, of a stronger bond between club and fans than most. City pioneered the policy of selling season tickets cheaply. It has also reached out to the city's large Asian community with Zesh Rehman, the Birmingham-born captain of Pakistan, heavily involved in the process.

The future is promising. Tuesday, however, is about remembering the past. It is also a reminder, in a week that hooliganism reared its head, that fans also have a responsibility. If there had been fences at Bradford the death toll would have been in the hundreds.

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor