Bradford City vs Lincoln City (partially found footage of Football League Third Division match; 1985)
On 11th May 1985, Bradford City hosted Lincoln City at the Valley Parade Stadium for a Football League Third Division match. The final match for both clubs that season, it was meant to provide celebration for Bradford, with its team receiving the Third Division trophy and looking ahead to playing in the Second Division for the next season. However, the match became infamous as it was abandoned after 40 minutes because of the Bradford City Stadium fire that claimed the lives of 56 spectators.
Heading into the match, Bradford City had confirmed themselves as champions of the 1984/85 Third Division, having beaten Bolton Wanderers 2-0. Meanwhile, Lincoln City had ensured that they were safe from relegation to the Fourth Division. Aside from the clear celebrations the day would bring, with 11,076 fans in its Valley Parade Stadium, Bradford were also seeking to refurbish its ground, as it had been deemed "inadequate in so many ways for modern requirements" according to the Telegraph & Argus. Among changes included converting the wooden terracing to concrete, and to clear up the litter that had fallen beneath the stands, which was deemed to be a fire risk.
Prior to kick-off, Bradford's captain Peter Jackson was given the trophy by Dick Wragg, Football League's Life President, which would be the club's first silverware in 56 years. Because of the events following the game, little attention was given surrounding the match itself, with television cameras were only situated so that the trophy presentation could be captured. By 40 minutes, the score was still 0-0. The match was described by BBC Sport as "a drab affair with neither team threatening to score", perhaps because both sides had little to play for in this match. This was to the displeasure of the crowd, who were seeking a satisfactory ending to Bradford's successful season.
Bradford City Stadium Fire
At the 40th-minute mark, the game was immediately called off by referee Don Shaw, when a fire broke out on Block G of the stands. The fire was triggered by an Australian man who accidentally dropped a lit cigarette under the stands, which landed onto the debris below. Attempts to extinguish it, including by pouring coffee over the small fire, failed. Because it was windy on the day, the fire quickly spread and turned into an inferno within minutes. There were no extinguishers within the passageway because of concern over them being vandalised. The majority of fans were able to run out of the stands and onto the pitch as there was no fencing that could have triggered a human crush similar to the Hillsborough disaster.
In less than four minutes however, the fire had engulfed the entirety of the stand, trapping most who had yet to escape. Among them included an elderly couple who died in their seats. Additionally, 27 were found dead in the area surrounding exit K and the turnstiles 6-9, with others also being crushed in that area. Another man had been able to walk onto the pitch but was completely engulfed, ultimately perishing from his injuries despite police and spectators desperately trying to save him by smothering the flames. In total, 56 people died, while another 256 were injured, including by flaming debris that fell from the stand onto the pitch below. In a day of tragedy, many were also deemed heroes. These included 28 police officers and 22 supporters who helped save at least one life and received commendations for their actions.
Because of the disaster, and with the game not meaning much for both clubs before the blaze, the Football League made the 0-0 draw official and thus gave both teams a point each. The clubs would not face each other in league action until 7th September 2007, and at the Valley Parade on 26th December as part of the 2007/08 League 2 season. Both matches were won by Bradford 2-1.
The match was being recorded by Yorkshire Television (now ITV Yorkshire) as part of ITV's regional program The Big Match, with commentary provided by John Helm. The fire led to the organisation broadcasting a program on Calendar that discussed the disaster the day after it occurred. Footage of the blaze was shown on ITV's World of Sport and BBC's Grandstand mere minutes after it happened. However, such was the nature of the disaster that match footage was banned for many years afterwards. The tape of the fire was closely guarded by Yorkshire Television and was shown only as a training video for fire brigades. Unauthorised usage of the footage would result in action being taken by Yorkshire Television, including October 1999, when it was discovered that the US clip show When Good Times Go Bad utilised 45 seconds of footage from the disaster as part of a segment on sporting accidents.
More than six minutes of the disaster would eventually be uploaded to YouTube and other video-sharing websites in the mid-2000s. These would be swiftly taken down following requests by ITV Yorkshire, although overtime, including because a WikiLeaks article provided the tape, many re-uploads of the inferno would remain up on YouTube and Dailymotion. As of the present day, the footage of the fire is publicly available.
However, the match itself is almost completely missing, with only 2 and half minutes of footage being viewable thanks to the documentary The History of Bradford City FC - 1903-1991. A few additional clips were included with permission from ITV Yorkshire as part of the 2015 documentary One Day in May: The Story Of The Bradford Fire. This still leaves most of the forty minutes of footage inaccessible. According to a 1999 article by The Guardian, Yorkshire Television kept a master copy within a safe at its headquarters, with the organisation denying multiple requests to release the footage. Considering the difficulties and controversy surrounding the inferno footage being publicly released, and with only a few clips permitted in the 2015 documentary, it is highly unlikely that the full uncut tape of the proceeding football match will ever see the light of day.
- 2022 UEFA Champions League Final (lost CCTV footage of crowd incidents during international football match; 2022)
- Hillsborough Disaster (partially lost CCTV recordings and documents of football stadium disaster; 1989)
- Serbia vs Albania (found footage of abandoned UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying match; 2014)
- Bradford City: A Complete Record detailing the club's 1984/85 season and the prelude to the match. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- The Quiet Fan detailing how both clubs stood prior to the match and noting both were awarded an official 0-0 draw by the Football League. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- The Football Grounds of Great Britain detailing the Valley Parade Stadium, the changes it needed, and the disaster. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- The Glasgow Herald reporting on Bradford City officials knowing the potential fire risks and the work planned prior to the disaster. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- Archived Bradford City detailing the proceedings prior to the match, and the fire. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- BBC Sport providing accounts of the disaster from various individuals. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- BBC Sport summarising the match and detailing the disaster. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- International Business Times detailing the low-quality of the match itself. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- Independent reporting on what started the fire. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- Daily Mirror reporting on the failed attempts to extinguish the then-small fire. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- Guardian article reporting on the disaster. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- Lincolnshire Live noting the victims of the disaster. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- Daily Mirror noting the police supporters and supporters who saved lives on the day. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- BBC Sport reporting on the first 2007/08 encounter. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- BBC Sport reporting on the second 2007/08 encounter. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- Detailing World discussing the televised coverage. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- Guardian reporting on the When Good Times Go Bad incident and noting Yorkshire Television's master copy. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- Telegraph & Argus reporting on an old YouTube video containing the blaze being taken down. Retrieved 17 Jan '22
- WikiLeaks article that released the tape containing the blaze in October 2008. Retrieved 17 Jan '22