In later years, Martin devoted himself to extensively investigating how the disaster was caused, its culture of institutional neglect and the government's general indifference towards football fans' safety at the time. This book tells the gripping, extraordinary in-depth story of a boy's unthinkable loss following a spring afternoon at a football match, of how fifty-six people could die at a game, and of the truths he unearthed as an adult.
As a book that questions the unsatisfactory way in which the fire was investigated, as a critique of the Popplewell Inquiry, it is quite brilliant. I'm from West Yorkshire, I know the rumours and awareness that justice hadn't been done either to those responsible nor to the victims. It makes you ashamed of the entire period. The book is, in this way, as much a testament to the values of the Thatcher years no coincidence that so many football catastrophes happened o I can't do this book justice.
The book is, in this way, as much a testament to the values of the Thatcher years no coincidence that so many football catastrophes happened on her watch as the disclosures over the Hillsborough cover-up. As a personal story it is moving beyond words. The chapters that deal with the fire and the immediate aftermath are quite the saddest things I have ever read.
I don't cry easily these days but I shed buckets over these. Here's to you Martin Fletcher. Your dad, your brother, your uncle and your grandad would be proud of you. You've got a remarkable mother too. May 08, David Whitehouse rated it it was amazing. Martin Fletcher's book shows the disregard in which the safety of British football spectators was held until at least the end of the s.
He is a survivor of the Bradford fire in which lost four relatives. His research raises serious doubts as to the common explanation that the fire was started by a cigarette. It is amazing that Oliver Popplewell, who headed the very short enquiry into the fire, has declined to read this book.
He should have been desperate to get his hands on it. It's an attitu Martin Fletcher's book shows the disregard in which the safety of British football spectators was held until at least the end of the s. It's an attitude that speaks volumes: we got it right because we got it right and there is no need to think about it any more. View 1 comment. Jun 13, Sean Perry rated it it was amazing.
Another tale of the 80's, of a time of institutional neglect and the government's general indifference to the people. A sad read, but compelling in that the author is like a dog with a bone, not letting go. Thoroughly recommended reading, whether you're a football fan or not. May 17, Kevin Ryan rated it really liked it. This is a moving account of the events on the day of the Bradford fire written by an author who was present at the fire. Martin Fletcher lost his father, brother, uncle and grandfather in the fire. In this account of the Bradford Fire Martin Fletcher describes his family life in the years before the disaster.
He describes a very moving account of his experience on the day of the fire and then goes on to challenge the inquiry and how it affected his life thereafter. The authors description of his e This is a moving account of the events on the day of the Bradford fire written by an author who was present at the fire. The authors description of his early life will ring true for most people who were introduced to the joy of live football through attending games with their father and other members of their family.
His description of his experience on the day of the fire is heartbreaking. Yet through this it also describes the heroism and compassion shown by those who came to the aid of the injured and dieing. It is amazing that this event never received anywhere near the depth of scrutiny afforded to the Hillsborough disaster and herein lies the criticism of the inquiry that make up much of the third part of this book. There is no doubt that the inquiry that took place after the event was inadequate to say the least. The Popplewell inquiry lasted just a week.
This was woefully inadequate given the scale of the disaster. In saying that, I found the arguments and theories about the fire being started deliberately less than convincing. The fire tests mentioned and comments about whether people had been smoking near the source of the fire were somewhat contradictory in my opinion. No matter how much circumstantial evidence there may be about the number of fires that had affected the businesses of the Bradford City Chairman Stafford Heginbotham, I find it hard to believe that the fire would be started at a time that the stand was full of people and most of the exit gates locked.
I do however believe that there is enough evidence here to open a further official inquiry. The next tier comprised around ten junior sides.
Among the juniors, status was jealously guarded and whilst smaller clubs such as such as Bingley or Dudley Hill would typically play games with the Bradford and Manningham reserves, the likes of Cleckheaton and Bowling had higher aspirations and considered such fixtures infra dig. At the bottom were local clubs, ranging from village sides such as Heaton FC who had their own dedicated fields to nursery clubs who were invariably based in local parks Lister Park being a particular hub of activity.
A chain emerged whereby larger clubs would poach talented players from their smaller brethren who served as feeder clubs. A good example of this was the career of the celebrated full-back George Lorimer who died in at the height of his fame as full back for Manningham FC. The flow of players was not one way and junior clubs also secured those who fell out of favour in the teams of seniors or preferred a less demanding routine.
Individuals could dream of upward mobility and the possibility of county or even international honours. However, it was the prospect of cup exploits that focused minds. The actual financial commitment was modest but in emotional and relative terms it was not insignificant. Payment of annual rent was the principal liability of any club but it was the construction of grandstands and ground improvements, as well as maintenance, that dictated the economics. The finances of junior clubs could at best be described as precarious and considerable damage was inflicted by bad weather through postponements or from the expense of straw or oak husks to make a field playable.
By the end of the s financial reality had begun to catch up with these clubs who found themselves weighed down by indebtedness and increasingly desperate circumstances. The trade depression at the beginning of the following decade increased the difficulties further. The problems of the junior clubs were further exacerbated arising from their structures and weaknesses in financial management.
As member organisations, subscribing members enjoyed the privilege of one man per vote but they were also equally liable for repayment of liabilities. Once a club found itself in difficulty there was little incentive for members to renew and as a consequence, financial difficulties were compounded by a drop in subscription revenue. Not surprisingly it was not sustainable. By the start of the s most junior clubs were struggling to remain solvent and the looming issue of broken time payments had grave implications for their finances.
Although sympathetic to the needs of individual players, few clubs could afford to pay generous expenses. In the secretary of Bowling FC was realistic in his assessment that professionalism was an inevitable outcome for northern rugby. Nonetheless he had grave misgivings about how clubs such as his own could accommodate on a widespread basis even the intermediary measure of just broken time payments.
The likes of Bowling FC were all too mindful of the delicate balancing act that they already faced between financial failure and survival; the fear was that legalisation of broken time monies would expose junior clubs to an auction for talent in which they could not compete. The winding-up and disappearance of countless junior sides across Yorkshire and Lancashire by the end of the decade was as dramatic as their sudden emergence in the s.
If previously their financial difficulties had been overcome by arranging a fixtures with a local senior side, by the reality was that rugby football no longer had the same appeal and the leading Northern Union clubs had their own problems. Heaton FC was a good example of a club that over-committed itself in chasing a dream — it was a shooting star that fell to earth in little more than seven years.
Established in January, the club had an impressive rise that was propelled by enthusiasm and ambition in equal measure. Yet by April, it was on its last legs, the first of many junior clubs who disappeared in that decade almost as quickly as they had emerged in the s. That particular tie in December, was played in front of three thousand spectators at Park Avenue and provided a taste of the big time for a village club formed less than two years previously. Its home venue was originally the Heaton recreation ground adjacent to the cemetery but a creditable record in the Bradford Charity Cup fuelled the confidence of members and encouraged the search for a new ground.
The year was probably the peak of football fever in Bradford and a measure of this was the launch by The Yorkshireman magazine of a dedicated football publication in September. It seemed that there was a contagious enthusiasm to commit monies in the pursuit of sporting glory. Heaton FC was not the only club investing in a new ground. Earlier, in March there had been the controversy of a postponed cup tie at Park Avenue which defined the future relationship between the Bradford and Manningham clubs. The affair arguably reflected badly upon the game, inviting ridicule that a sporting dispute should be referred to the Crown Court.
The respectability of rugby football was to be further tested in relation to the financial viability of its also-ran clubs — the headline profitability of Bradford FC would be proven to be the exception as opposed to the rule. The achievement proved to be the apogee for Heaton FC and three years later the club disbanded, having struggled to service its debts.
The expense of the new ground had undermined its prospects of survival and in the end it was forced to rely upon the goodwill of other clubs to pay its liabilities.
Fund raising efforts for this purpose included a testimonial played on behalf of Heaton FC at Valley Parade in April, Ironically Heaton FC achieved a creditable record in the development of young players but this served only for it to become a de facto nursery side for Manningham FC rather than for its own benefit. George Lorimer was one such player who graduated to Valley Parade via Manningham Clarence in where he became established as one of the best full-backs of his era. Shipley is a town to the north of Bradford whose growth in the nineteenth century was similarly driven by the textiles industry.
With a population of around 20, in , it was roughly an eighth of the size of its larger neighbour. Shipley FC provides an interesting case study of the fate of junior clubs and their experience after the split in English rugby in Shipley FC was better placed than many others to survive. Although traditionally ranked as a third tier club, it had the potential benefit of a decent local catchment with a strong local identity.
The club was also one of longest established in the Bradford area.
The formation of Shipley FC in was at the same time as that of Bingley FC and Keighley FC — evidence that football mania had spread down the Aire valley and of a parochial instinct to keep up with neighbouring towns. The club had a relatively modest existence and highlights of the season tended to be games with near neighbours Windhill FC and Saltaire FC who were based within the Shipley district.
There was similarly a close rivalry with Bingley FC and in , a disputed winning try in the Bradford Charity Cup tie at Valley Parade led to the Bingley players leaving the field three minutes before the end of the game.
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During the first half of the s the club derived kudos from the graduation of its players to one of the seniors — either Bradford FC or Manningham FC. In common with other clubs of similar stature there was genuine pride when former Shipley men made the grade at a higher level. Sadly, things did not work out and he returned to Shipley FC a few weeks later. Newspaper reports suggested that he had been excluded from the Bradford FC team on account of favouritism.
Nonetheless, Brumfitt did not suffer from his association with Bradford and he represented Yorkshire in as a Shipley player. Between and the club never progressed beyond the second round. A consequence of this was that the Yorkshire Cup was never a money-spinner for Shipley FC and it never had the luck of a lucrative home tie. Nevertheless, Shipley enjoyed a couple of glamour ties: in March, the team was defeated in the first round by near neighbours Manningham at Valley Parade and then in March, it suffered an opening round defeat at the cup holders Halifax.
Shipley FC was also involved in a couple of controversial cup ties, the circumstances of which provide a fascinating insight into the Victorian game. In March, Shipley had played Wortley at home in the second round, at stake a third round tie at Otley. Wortley managed a narrow victory but Shipley contested the result when it became known that the Wortley side had included a couple of Wakefield men.
The tie was ordered to be replayed, on this occasion at Valley Parade but once again Wortley emerged as victors. On this occasion it was controversy about a drunken referee that led the tie to be replayed. Shipley FC had the best record of all clubs in the Bradford Charity Cup and its achievements in the competition represented the only honours credited to the club prior to Buttershaw had previously won the cup in and stood in when the Manningham team was unable to participate due to being on tour in South Wales.
Also at Park Avenue, the attendance for the final in was reported to have been eight thousand and the semi-final against Bowling Old Lane in attracted seven thousand. However, by virtue perhaps of the final in being something of an exhibition game, the crowd was said to have been only three thousand.
The celebrations that followed victory at Park Avenue on Easter Monday, were recorded in the Shipley Times and confirmed the enthusiasm for the competition. It was said that the victors were brought back to Shipley in an open waggonnette and the successful players were greeted by the Saltaire Brass Brand and excursionists enjoying the Easter holiday at Shipley Glen, a local beauty spot. New monies were being absorbed almost as quickly as they were being earned and with minimal reserves it only took a match postponement to instigate a financial crisis.
The increase in operating costs was accounted for by the expense of rail fares, playing kit, print costs and advertising as well as straw to protect the field. He had brought the matter up before, and he thought that if they got fixtures nearer home it would be to their advantage, although the prestige of the club should not be sacrificed to save a few shillings.
By the start of the s Shipley FC was well-established in its community. The Shipley team comprised men who were motivated to play for local honour and the relative lack of honours should not be interpreted as lack of passion or commitment. Involvement with the club also afforded a degree of social prominence that was not restricted to the players themselves. The Bonsor family which was of French descent had settled in Shipley and the father, Robert was a textiles dyer. Nevertheless, he had a respectable record in his own right as a local sportsman.
In Maurice had joined Bradford Trinity and was latterly captain of the second team before he joined Bradford FC in , remaining a member of the first team at Park Avenue until his retirement in Indeed, the egos and vanity of committee members was a major factor in driving the development of individual rugby clubs. Nevertheless, as financial commitments increased and football clubs began to accrue liabilities, the responsibility of office brought with it the personal risk of having to repay debts in the event of winding-up.
The same consideration may have dissuaded Bonsor from maintaining his involvement with the club. In Shipley joined the third tier of the new Yorkshire league competition. Newspaper reports confirm that league games were highly competitive.
Yet the sporting world inhabited by Shipley FC seems quaint in contrast to what we are familiar with. The spectators on both sides believed the result to be a draw, but as they were leaving the field a question to the referee elicited the response that Shipley were the winners with 8 points to 6.
The point was, however, really a penalty goal and the match was a draw after all. Owing to the storm, good football was out of the question, and Shipley were disappointed in not winning. Around the time of the split in Shipley FC was struggling to make ends meet and was faced with servicing debts that had built up from the costs of ground development as well as the funding of trading losses. It was hardly a unique state of affairs and the trade depression at the turn of the decade was blamed for having exacerbated the financial difficulties of most clubs in the Bradford area by virtue of impact on disposable incomes.
However whilst amalgamation made sense, the obstacles were more than just emotional. A combined club for instance still faced the obligation to repay the collective debts and few members would have relished inheriting the liabilities of rival clubs in addition to their own. Increasingly, Shipley FC came to rely upon fund raising social events to remain viable.