At the bottom of this posting you will find a link to a PDF I am hosting of the ‘Committee of Inquiry into Crowd Safety and Control at Sports Grounds’ Interim Report’ that was Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department and was Chaired by Mr Justice Popplewell. You will also find a link to the full and final report.
The Interim report is more focussed on the Bradford City Fire (and the Birmingham Riots) than the final report. The ‘Interim Report’ and some of the details it contains about the Bradford City Fire make for some difficult reading. In fact there are details within the report that really sadden the heart. I’ve highlighted a few points below:
Points of interest in the Popplewell Inquiry Interim Report into the Bradford City Fire:
2.8: The speed with which the fire took hold was graphically described as faster than a man could run.The wood roof covered with tarpaulin and sealed with asphalt itself rapidly took fire; the burning asphalt added its own fuel to the flames and injury to the spectators.The presence of the roof itself caused the fire to spread horizontally at a very fast speed.
3.28: The problem of communication at Bradford, as indeed elsewhere, is that the personal radio sets are only devised for one officer to speak at a time. Thus an officer seeking to send a message calls control. Control then replies. If another officer seeks to speak at the same time, the effect will be that neither officer can be properly understood by control.
3.46: In a written submission to the Inquiry made by the Fire Brigades Union it was suggested that the water supplies adjacent to the ground were insufficient to deal with the severity of fire, and that it was the normal practice for water authorities to restrict the meter supplies at weekends.
3.71: Two letters were then drafted on behalf of the Council to be sent to the Club, the first dated 11 July 1984 read as follows:
“I refer to my engineer’s visit to your ground on 4 July 1984 and a copy of the inspection report by TRADA of the west grandstand roof covering, passed to him. I wish to confirm the findings of that report that the existing felt roof covering and the areas of decayed boarding resulting, consequently creates an unacceptable crowd safety hazard and should be rectified as soon as possible”.
3.126: He (Stafford Heginbotham) was aware of litter being able to accumulate when kick boards were knocked off but he said it would have been a major task, almost a dismantling of the stand, to have removed the litter that was likely to have gone under the broken kick boards. He accepted that it should not have been there, but said that the cost would have been considerable and it would have been a major task. The stand had been there for 75 years. By irony, it was the second to last game before the timber flooring would have been replaced by concrete. That work would have started on the following Monday.
It is well worth reading the full Popplewell Inquiry Interim Report into the Bradford City Fire. It gives a great insight into the financial struggles of the Club at the time, the challenges that people faced on the day at Valley Parade and the suggested improvements as a result of the disaster (such as trained stewards – surprisingly some stewards at Bradford City on the day of the fire were as young as 12 and as old as 75).
You can read the full Interim Report PDF here Popplewell Inquiry Interim Report Bradford City Fire. Please note the full report PDF size is 23mb so may take some time to load.
It may also be of interest to read Martin Fletcher’s view of the Popplewell Inquiry, which he aired in this article for The Guardian. Martin Fletcher sadly lost four family members in the disaster. You can read The Guardian article here.