English Football’s Forgotten Tragedy: The Valley Parade Fire Revisited

When the Bradford City team takes to the pitch on Sunday afternoon for the 2013 League Cup final, there will be many for whom thoughts turn to the horrific events that unfolded on the eleventh of May 1985. Tonight, on the eve of a match that surely no-one could have seen at the start of this season, we take a look back at that day, the events that led up to it and the aftermath of a disaster that claimed fifty-six lives. Perhaps it was because it was dwarfed by or the Heysel Stadium disaster, which came just two and a half weeks after it, and by Hillsborough, which followed just four years later and began a quest for truth and justice which remains only half. Perhaps it was just because it occurred at a match between two of English football’s less glamorous clubs. Perhaps, just perhaps, it was because there was an implicit understanding amongst many that something like this was bound to happen at one of the decaying, rotten football grounds of England in the fullness of time. Whatever the reasons for it may be, Bradford fire feels like one of British football’s more concealed tragedies. Yet the events of Valley Parade on the eleventh of May 1985 marked the first major loss of life at a football ground in this country in fourteen years (and the...

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