This will only be a short post but the 11th of May was the 29th anniversary of one of the worst footballing disaster in English history. An event where 56 people lost their lives (another 250 were injured) yet an event that many don’t know about.
On the 11th of May 1985 Bradford were playing Lincoln (my club). It was the last game of the season and Bradford were celebrating winning the league.
In the 40th minute smoke was spotted in the main stand. 7 minutes later the entire stand was in flames and was falling down. A cigarette butt had been dropped and set fire to the piles of rubbish that had built up under the stand (which had been condemned as unsafe and was due to be replaced).
People piled onto the pitch and towards exits doing anything to get away from the flames that were quickly engulfing he stand. Many of the 56 died when they made a split second choice to run towards the exits rather than the pitch and these exits turned out to be locked.
Luckily there was no fencing around the stand like there was at many other grounds e.g. Hillsborough. This lack of fencing probably saved the life of almost everyone in the stand that day. Had there been fencing it may have been thousands of deaths.
54 of the fans were from Bradford and 2 were elderly Lincoln fans. For Lincoln the tragedy is remembered through a stand being named after those two men, Bill Stacey and Jim West but it means much more than that to the club. After the fire the rules around stadiums were tightened up and Lincoln had to pay nearly £4 million in stadium renovations which resulted in lack of budget for squads and the team dropping down the leagues. I do agree that the stadium renovations were more important and Lincoln now have one of the best lower league stadiums but they have never really recovered.
As a tragedy it isn’t remembered by the wider footballing world, there are no black armbands and no minutes silence. This, in my opinion, is the biggest tragedy. For the FA cup final there is talk of applause at the 56th minute and I for one would love that to happen and to lead to regular remembrance of those who lost their lives that day.