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Martin Fletcher's book on Valley Parade fire

I admit it passed me by that there was any controversy over the investigation of the catastrophic fire at Valley Parade on 11th May 1985 where 54 Bradford City and two visiting Lincoln City supporters died. This article in the Guardian about Martin Fletcher's crusade to properly investigate the fire and the Bradford City chairman with the extraordinarily unlucky record on factories burning down is fascinating to say the least, well worth a read.


  • The thing is that there was no controversy. Listening to radio today it seems that Martin Fletcher stands alone.

  • It was 30 years ago, things have changed a lot. Look how the Hillsborough disaster has completely moved on from then. Anything like this is worth revisiting. I am eager to read the book that came out at midnight I believe.

  • Agreed but there were always calls for Hillsborough to be reviewed. With Bradford the victims families interviewed on radio yesterday don't want this revisited.

  • Martin lost 4 members of his family from 3 generations so you can hardly blame him for trying to get to the bottom of the disaster. He also stated in the article that he didn't want an inquiry like the current one into the Hillsborough disaster.
    If other Bradford fans want to just believe it was a not fully extinguished fag in a polystyrene cup that accidentally dropped down because it's easier to stomach, that's their prerogative. Unfortunately, the truth may well be far more disturbing and unpalatable.

  • @JohnnyAllAlone you're quite right, there was always pressure to challenge the official version of events at Hillsbrough. Let's remind ourselves what Sir Oliver Popplewell had to say about that as recently as 2011:

    ""The citizens of Bradford behaved with quiet dignity and great courage. They did not harbour conspiracy theories. They did not seek endless further inquiries. They buried their dead, comforted the bereaved and succoured the injured. They organised a sensible compensation scheme and moved on.

    Is there, perhaps, a lesson there for the Hillsborough campaigners?"

    And who was it who led the inquiry into Bradford and who today has said that is was "one of the more straightforward inquiries"? That's right. Sir Oliver Popplewell

  • @eric_plant Is there, perhaps, a lesson there for the Hillsborough campaigners?" What do you mean by that exactly?

  • Though here's a pretty good case study in how automatic banner ad placements can go wrong:

  • BlueAway - I think eric plant was directly quoting Sir Oliver Popplewell's comments.

  • @BlueAway yes, that is part of the same quote from Popplewell

  • Ahhh I see! My bad lol

  • In any major event, there are always odd coincidences. taken in isolation you can build a conspiracy. Take 9/11 for example. Human nature being what it is, we dont like random or cock up to explain a tragedy, we like it to be someones fault and ideally deliberate act. Occasionally of course there is a conspiracy or cover up, Hillsboro was a case in point, but on the vast majority of cases, its just cock up or complacency not some machiavellian plot.

    There are three major flaws to the arson theory
    1) Insurers dont like paying out large sums of money. If they had any indication that the Bradford chairman was an arsonist, they would have been all over his other insurance claims like a rash.
    2) The Bradford fire was investigated by fire investigators with no axe to grind, no advantage in cover up. m No evidence of arson was found.
    3) Quite simply on the rare occasions where a building owner commits arson for the insurance, those fires invariably happen at the dead of night when there is noone around a) because there is less chance of getting caught b) there is less chance of the fire being put put c) there is less chance of anybody getting hurt. Why on earth would anybody chose to commit arson for insurance at the one time in the week that those three tests were at their hardest.

    The Bradford fire was surely a tragic accident, close to criminal manslaughter for negligence but highly unlikely to be a criminal act. rather sad to see further distress to the families now by it being raked up again now.

  • new message board, same old DevC. Absolutely woeful post

  • Sorry I dont understand your point??

  • I'm not sure what Dev is trying to say with all that. All I'm able to infer is "If it's improbable, don't waste your time investigating it".

    One other factor Dev hasn't considered is that a stand full of spectators (a large number of whom would be smoking) is more likely to accidentally to do something that will cause it to burn down and provide an alibi. Fires in wooden stands were hardly an unknown occurrence, just that spectators lives in the incidents that did occur previously weren't in such serious danger because the spread of fire was far slower than at Valley Parade. The particular way that stand was built onto the hillside with tar roofing meant that it was especially prone to burning down in the lightening-quick, catastrophic manner that it did.

    There's never a good time to bring these allegations to light, but it's clear from the inquiry in the aftermath of the disaster that the former chairman's track record with fires at his premises was not properly investigated (if at all).
    I can understand why many Bradford City fans will want to avoid any sort of revisiting of the disaster, though it's a matter of whether you'd prefer to take the red or the blue pill.

  • Old wooden stand. Rubbish. Smoking. Tragic accident. I cannot believe that any insurance scammer, however unscrupulous, would risk killing hundreds of football fans of all ages when, as has been pointed out, those sorts of 'accidents' tend to happen at night.

  • Wise words from Strongest team, I think. Final word from me is that BBC at least is reporting that the old stand that tragically burnt had no insurance value due to its impending demolition.

  • For what it's worth, I think negligence out of widespread ignorance of fire safety at football grounds lead to the conditions which were triggered by an accidental event if the overwhelmingly most likely reason, though that's not a good enough reason to rule out every single last lead of possible wrongdoing.

  • I personally wouldn't give it about a minute's thought and then unequivocally dismiss the life's work of a man who had got a post graduate qualification in law and then made it his life's work to painstakingly sift through evidence relating to the case.

    But I'm not Devon Chairboys. We're all different

  • He has a book to sell so has to try and get people to buy it and what better way than coming up with a conspiracy theory.

  • I wouldn't be that cynical, I'm sure he genuinely believes that it was arson.

    I agree with Dev that this seems unlikely. People tend to be unwilling to accept both good and bad things happen by chance rather than because of human action.

    I think that Martin Fletcher suffered a terrible tragedy, deserves our sympathies, but may be too close to events to make an objective judgement.

  • And of course, even if it wasn't arson, things should have been done differently by the club and its owners that minimised both
    a) the likelihood of fire
    b) the impact of fire if it did occur.

  • Most football chairmen of those times (and probably quite a few today) would avoid spending any of their cash on the safety or comfort of fans...only how to pen as many as possible in. Let's face it things only changed for the better safety wise in football after Bradford and Hilsborough and then quote slowly. Even now, fans come a far second to the cash...

  • I was shown footage of the fire many years ago on a course it was horrific.
    If there is any doubt now about it's cause then another investigation has to be made its the only way to stop similar tragedies.
    Of course if the families of those lost want it conducted differently than the Hillsborough enquiry do that but you can't walk away from an accusation because it's uncomfortable to think about.

  • @robin said:
    He has a book to sell so has to try and get people to buy it and what better way than coming up with a conspiracy theory.

    Oh dear. Next you'll be saying 'he's done all right out this' if it sells well.

    I doubt he's interested in the commercial aspect of the book. Who knows if he's got a point or not - I'll decide once I've read it.

    It has to be said though that fire did appear to follow the owner about throughout his life. And as for Popplewell's patronising stuff about 'the people of Bradford'. People like him should always be challenged when talking pompous guff. Effectively, he was just telling people to pipe down and take it on the chin.

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