CHAPTER 8 – Always Remember The 56

Despite fading in the nation’s memory, the impact of the Bradford City Fire will be everlasting for anyone who was there that day. It’s perhaps this reason why many fans have declined to engage in another examination of the evidence.

But Mobeen thinks another examination is needed. And there’s one more piece of the incomplete and ugly puzzle. Mobeen speaks to a man who makes an extraordinary claim.

We hear again from Sir Oliver Popplewell, the man who ran the inquiry to put the new information back to him. Does he think a fresh look is worthwhile?

No matter what the conclusions of any future examination will be, one thing is certain. The fans who lost their lives that day will never be forgotten. If lessons are to be learnt, they simply cannot be forgotten.


CHAPTER 7 – The Class Thing

Four years after the Bradford City Fire, tragedy struck again. Hillsborough Stadium played host to the semi-final of the 1989 FA Cup. The police failed to manage the entrance to the stadium and an ensuing crush led to the deaths of 97 more football fans.

It raises the question, why weren’t those in authority taking the safety of football fans more seriously?

The Bradford Fire has long drawn comparisons to Hillsborough. But unlike Hillsborough, it has faded into obscurity. Why? Mobeen discovers it may be down to a reluctance among many to ask difficult questions.

But in 2015, Martin Fletcher published a book questioning the official verdict. It looked like those difficult questions would finally get some satisfactory answers.

It certainly seemed necessary. So what happened next?


CHAPTER 6 – A Sinister Theory

There were countless heroes on the 11th of May 1985. Without the selfless actions of fellow fans, police officers and nurses, the death toll would have been even higher.

Mobeen hears remarkable testimony detailing the heroics. But as his investigation deepens, he also discovers more evidence that questions the official conclusion of the inquiry.

Why did fans report smelling a burning toxic rubber prior to the flames? Was Bradford City and its Chairman in financial trouble going into the new season? Were the doors unlocked that day as opposed to general policy? Was there any evidence of foul play?

A sinister theory begins to emerge. One that many think is beyond the pale.


CHAPTER 5 – A Dropped Cigarette?

The inquiry which examined the Bradford City Stadium Fire didn’t name anybody as being responsible for starting the blaze. But it did find that the fire was started accidentally – likely via a dropped cigarette.

But how strong was the evidence? And did the investigation look into any of Stafford Heginbotham’s previous fires?

Mobeen investigates the testimony from fans who were sitting right where the fire started. And we hear from a fire investigator who has some lingering questions about the inquiry’s conclusions.

But in 2015, a retired police detective went on TV and told the watching public that he found the man who admitted dropping the cigarette that started the fire. Case closed? Well – not quite. Mobeen uncovers some startling gaps and counter-claims which question this version of events. And he unpacks a paradox, where not everyone can be telling the truth.


CHAPTER 4 – The Chairman

Bradford City has had a tumultuous history. For decades before the fire in ‘85, the club had lingered in the lower leagues of English football. But they may have ceased to exist at all. For many fans, the fact they are still a club today is down to one man: Stafford Heginbotham.

Mobeen goes in search of those who remember the club’s enigmatic chairman. Even to this day, fans still regard him as a hero.

But we hear how in fact there may be reasons to question his hero status. In the immediate aftermath of the fire, Heginbotham’s media appearances only added mystery to the tragedy.

And Mobeen discovers that the fire at Bradford’s stadium was by no means the chairman’s first. Fire at Heginbotham premises had occurred multiple times, and as it turns out, some thought his history of fires was the joke of the town.


CHAPTER 3 – The Fletchers

Mobeen goes to meet a fan who has some lingering questions about the true nature of the Bradford City Fire.

Martin Fletcher was just 12 years old when he and four members of his family went to watch his beloved football team play on the 11th of May 1985. He tells Mobeen how he came to fall in love with the club and how that day came to totally alter the course of his life.

Martin has a tragic memory of the day itself. But something his mum told him years after the fire has prompted him to revisit the details of the tragedy, time and time again.

His conclusion? There’s been a massive miscarriage of justice.


CHAPTER 2 – The Inquiry

As the Sunday papers went to press, the British public wanted answers. How could a fire so tragic have happened? Why were so many lives needlessly lost?

The locals of Bradford and the victims’ families were especially keen to know, as rumours were now circulating.

Mobeen speaks to those who followed the aftermath of the fire closely as he seeks to understand how those in authority reacted to the devastating events.

Shortly after the fire, Margaret Thatcher’s Government established an inquiry. It would be led by the High Court judge, Sir Oliver Popplewell. We hear from him and others in attendance about how the fire was said to have started.

There are some who are critical of how the inquiry was run. Was it too fast? Was its scope broad enough? Crucially, were its conclusions correct?


CHAPTER 1 – 11th May, 1985

Saturday the 11th of May 1985 was supposed to be a day of celebration for the fans of Bradford City AFC. They’d just clinched the Division Three title and the last game of the season against Lincoln City was set to be a lap of honour.

But as half time approached, faint wisps of smoke appeared from the Main Stand of Valley Parade. They quickly turned to visible orange flames. The carnival atmosphere quickly took a turn as the flames grew. In just over four minutes, the entire stand was ablaze. It’s estimated that temperatures reached 900 degrees celsius.

While many fans survived by escaping onto the pitch, 56 didn’t.

But despite it being one of the deadliest events in football history, the fire at Valley Parade has faded somewhat into obscurity.

Investigative journalist, Mobeen Azhar, speaks to those who were at the ground that fateful day, to get a sense of the tragedy. From police officers, to the radio commentator, we hear the shocking details of one of the worst days in football history.